Category: European Union

Court victory for disabled EU benefit claimants at appeal

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Two disabled people who moved to the UK from other EU countries have won an important Appeal Court case which entitles them to disability-related benefits in the UK from shortly after they arrived rather than having to wait two years.

The case, brought by Child Poverty Action Group and Harrow Law Centre, will ensure that disabled EU citizens and their carers who have a “genuine and sufficient” connection to the UK will receive social security support at an earlier point if they relocate to the UK.

The ruling overturns an Upper Tribunal finding that had denied both households benefits. And it confirms that the “genuine and sufficient” link which must be demonstrated by claimants in these circumstances is to the UK as a whole, rather than to its social security system.

One of the claimants, Ms Mohamed, is a Somalian-born woman who after 14 years’ residence in Germany as a German citizen came to the UK to settle here, aged 65.

When her health deteriorated to the point where she could no longer live alone and required the care of her daughter, a British citizen living in the UK, she claimed Attendance Allowance (AA). Her claim was refused.

The other claimant is 18-year-old Brandon Kavanagh, an Irish citizen who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome as a child.

His mother, a British citizen, moved to Ireland when she was a teenager but returned to the UK in 2013 with her children to escape domestic violence and to be closer to her family, from whom she receives support. Her son was then aged 12.

She claimed Disability Allowance (DLA) for her son when she arrived in the UK, but her claim was refused.

Between 2011 and 2013 she had received care allowances for her son and for herself from the Irish social security system.

Both were refused disability-related benefits on the grounds that they hadn’t been in the UK long enough to pass the so-called ‘past presence test’.

The test requires people claiming disability benefits to have been in Britain for 104 weeks of the 156 weeks before they claim. EU citizens may be able to meet this test by combining, in certain circumstances, the time they have lived in another EU state with the time they lived in the UK.

Alternatively, the test doesn’t apply to EU citizens if they can establish a genuine and sufficient link to the UK.

Both claimants appealed the refusal of their benefit claims. In Brandon Kavanagh’s case he lost the appeal while Ms Mohamed was successful in hers. Brandon appealed to the Upper Tribunal in his case and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions appealed in Ms Mohamed’s case.

The cases then went jointly to an Upper Tribunal which found that although the “genuine and sufficient link” needed to be to the UK as a whole rather than limited to its social security system and that such a link may be established on the basis of presence alone, neither of the claimants could demonstrate a sufficiently strong link to the UK.

In a judgement handed down yesterday, the Court of Appeal ruled that both claimants had a genuine and sufficient connection to the UK when they claimed disability benefits shortly after their arrival and that the approach taken by the Upper Tribunal was flawed and unduly inflexible because it failed to take account of all the particular, personal circumstances and motives of the claimants which, in the round, proved the required sufficient link.

The Judges say: “… objective evidence of the [genuine and sufficient] link is plainly critical but evidence of the motives, intentions and expectations of the applicant are not to be ignored if they are relevant to proof of the link and are convincing.”

In Kavanagh’s case, the judges found the fact that his mother was fleeing domestic violence explained and confirmed her settled intention to remain in the UK, her country of nationality.

She needed the support of her wider family in England, enrolled her children in English schools, closed her only bank account in Ireland, severed all ties with the Republic and had no intention of returning.

In the case of Ms Mohamed, she suffered a number of physical ailments including osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and high blood pressure.

She used a wheelchair, required support with mobility and daily activities such as washing, cooking meals, dressing and administering medication and had moved to the UK to join her daughter, a British citizen who provides daily care for her.

Commenting on the judgement, Child Poverty Action Group’s Head of Litigation Carla Clarke said: “This is a strong judgement which recognises that justice requires decision makers to take a wide view of all the relevant facts and motives where a genuine and sufficient link to the UK must be proved for benefit purposes.

“Both of our clients already had strong family ties to the UK and a clear intention to settle here when they first claimed disability benefits yet they were denied help with the extra costs of disability because, as today’s judgement finds, the criteria for proving a sufficient link to the UK has been too narrowly applied.

“Today’s ruling means that disabled EU citizens, including UK citizens, who relocate or return to the UK from another EU country because their carer is fundamentally connected to the UK will receive the financial help they need because of their disability at a much earlier point.”

 


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An introduction to Dominic Raab, the new Brexit sectarian


Dominic Raab, the hard Brexit Sectarian Secretary  – who has replaced David Davis following his resignation last night – is a hard right libertarian and supports a hard Brexit. He’s been a fiercely loyal pro-Brexit outrider from the backbenches, and made broadcast outings more regularly than some ministers during the general election.

As a staunch neoliberal, he said in 2010 that “positive discrimination is wrong in the same way as negative discrimination. It means people are thinking in terms of social criteria and it is anti-meritocratic.”

It’s likely that May’s decision to appoint a staunch Brexiteer to the role is an olive branch to ever-restive Leave-supporting MPs who could seize on Davis’ resignation as an opportunity to launch a leadership challenge against her.

Raab was a co-founder of Change Britain, effectively a continuity wing of the Vote Leave campaign. Raab is a former lawyer for Linklaters, advising on EU and trade law and an ex-chief of staff to Davis. Linklaters has also hired Hanbury Strategy to provide the law firm with policy advice ‘in connection with the impact of Brexit on their clients’ businesses’. It also employs former foreign secretary William Hague as chair of its international advisory group. Of course, another of Hanbury Strategies’ clients is AggregateIQ Data Services Ltd.

Raab said last year that Brexit offers the UK’s legal sector “enormous” opportunities and that Britain already had a reputation as being a “global centre for business as being the best place to resolve disputes”. The legal industry employs 300,000 people — two-thirds outside London — and revenue generated by legal activities in the UK is £31.5bn, he said, adding that legal expertise is one of Britain’s unique selling points. Advising business on Brexit is certainly a lucrative role.

Raab was speaking at the Policy Exchange in London at the launch of a report by Linklaters, which explores ways of ‘ improving’ Britain’s ‘competitiveness’ after Brexit by ‘enhancing the rule of law’. The report concluded that Brexit ‘creates an opportunity to reinforce the rule of law in Britain’ and to make laws that are clear and ‘manageable’. It says one danger is that the future pressure on the government and parliament’s time after Brexit could result in “hastily drafted and poorly scrutinised laws that unintentionally subvert the rule of law.”

The Linklaters report concludes that Brexit will not allow Britain to change its laws completely but “it will provide a once in a generation opportunity to make material improvements” and says clearer legislation will help provide businesses “with the certainty and fairness they need to invest, employ and transact in the UK.”

The report says after Brexit it will be the responsibility of the UK parliament to enact laws in areas that are currently within the competency of the EU and this opportunity will require “some innovation” on the part of parliament. It urges that parliamentary processes to scrutinise new laws should be simplified and it also urges that the volume of legislation and regulation should be reduced. 

It’s kind of ironic that for all the domestic haggling and wrangling on Brexit, we risk forgetting that internationally, Britain is the place people think of as the place they would most like to come to resolve their disputes. That is a unique comparative advantage for us.” 

Raab went on: “As we seek to minimise legal risk please let’s not cower in a corner afraid of our shadow — Britain is better than that,” adding there were opportunities for post-Brexit Britain to build on its reputation as a centre for ‘legal expertise’. He sees the UK as a haven for businesses who want  a more ‘relaxed’ legal system, presumably, than elsewhere.

Despite his support for a full break with the European Union, in Raab’s constituency, Esher and Walton, citizens voted 58.4 percent to 41.6 percent to remain. He doesn’t like worker’s rights (most Tories don’t, they get in the way of exploitation and profiteering). Raab has links to an extended network of individuals and organisations pushing deregulation and climate science denial. In 2012, he wrote a piece for the Taxpayers’ Alliance demanding the government be transparent about the cost of its climate policies. 

Raab has voted against allowing a right to remain for EU nationals already in living in the UK after Brexit. He has also campaigned to change the UK’s Human Rights Act.

He was also a part of the Leave Means Leave campaign, despite his name being removed from the site recently, which was also supported by some of the UK’s most prominent climate science deniers such as former Tory MP and now Lord Peter Lilley, and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP Sammy Wilson. It was also supported by libertarian Tories calling for deregulations which have previously pushed disinformation on climate change including Jacob Rees-Mogg John Redwood, Christopher Chope and Ian Paisley to name a few. The Labour Party and Trade Unions have expressed concerns about his appointment, as Raab has also advocated scaling the minimum wage back.

Rabb is a co-author of the hard-right ‘Britannia Unchained‘ manifesto in 2012, along with Kwasi Kwarteng, Priti Patel, Chris Skidmore and Liz Truss, who collectively claimed that British workers ‘prefer a lie-in to hard work’ and that British people ‘are amongst the worst idlers in the world’.

Raab is also a keen advocate and supporter of the notorious libertarian Taxpayers’ Alliance, who bleat that rich people have to pay a little back to the society they gained so much from. Back in 2011, Raab proposed, in a pamphlet published by the Centre for Policy Studies entitled ‘Escaping the Strait Jacket’, that should the UK leave the EU this should be seen as an opportunity to slash protections for workers.

Referring to David Cameron’s attempts to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU, at the time, Raab wrote: “This opportunity should be seized, and used to remove some of the obstacles to British business.” 

Paul Blomfield, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Minister, said: “The new Brexit Secretary has long harboured ambitions to slash vital workplace protections and rights, and the Prime Minister has now put him in a position to do so.

“This latest blow for workers comes a few days after the Cabinet failed to rule out a race to the bottom with the EU on crucial employment protection. It’s become abundantly clear once again that this chaotic Tory Government cannot be trusted with people’s rights after Brexit.”

Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary said: “This appointment signals a promotion of a hard right figurehead who has shown contempt for working people in Britain.

“Theresa May has appointed someone who think British workers are lazy and have too many rights and he has already published plans to slash vital rights from the minimum wage to rights for agency workers.

“The hard won rights of UK workers are already under serious threat in the post-Brexit landscape – basic things like not being forced to work 60 hours a week and being able to get home to see your family.

“Dominic Raab’s appointment now poses a direct and immediate threat to working people in Britain.

At a time when we see a Tory back bencher salivating at the prospect of axing the Working Time Directive, the new Brexit Minister needs be clear where he stands on workers’ rights – the public will not accept a Brexit that makes life harder for working people.”

As a campaigning anti-unionist, Raab had also presented an ultimately unsuccessful Ten Minute Rule Bill proposing that emergency service and transport Unions should be required by law to ensure that strike votes receive 50% support of union members. Raab argued that reform was needed to prevent “militant union bosses” holding the “hard working majority” to ransom.

I guess he doesn’t get the whole idea of ‘collective bargaining’, then, unless of course, it involves big business gathering together to lobby the government for labour market deregulation and bigger profits.

In February this year, Raab advertised for an unpaid intern just ahead of a Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy publication, responding to the Taylor review on insecure work. The BEIS report criticised “exploitative unpaid internships” saying “an employer cannot avoid paying someone the minimum wage simply by calling them an ‘intern’ or saying that they are doing an internship.” 

Earlier in the year while he was serving as Housing Minister, Raab courted controversy by claiming that immigration to the United Kingdom had driven up housing prices by as much as 20 percent. Raab’s claims were then challenged by the UK Statistics Authority which asked that he publish the information supporting his allegation. When produced, it transpired that the information he cited was based on modelling long-since considered discredited and out of date, leading to criticism of his performance in his ministerial role. 

In 2015, he voted against explicitly requiring an environmental permit for fracking activities and voted not to ban the exploitation of unconventional petroleum for at least 18 months and not to require a review of the impact of such exploitation on climate change.

In 2011, the self-pitying, privileged white male waged a gender war on feminists, calling them “amongst the most obnoxious bigots”. He said he feels that men get a raw deal ‘from the cradle to the grave’ because of  “anti-male discrimination in rights of maternity/paternity leave”, young boys being “educationally disadvantaged compared to girls”, and because “divorced or separated fathers are systematically ignored by the courts”. Raab clains: “Men work longer hours, die earlier, but retire later than women”.  I guess child-rearing and being burdened with a disproportionate share of household chores, which isn’t salaried, don’t count as ‘work’. 

 

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Brexit, law firms, PR, lobbying and the communication ‘dark arts’ political hires


 

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Brexit, law firms, PR, lobbying and the communication ‘dark arts’ political hires

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Media Intelligence Partners’ lobbying aims.

Dark arts.” “Peddling.” “Salacious.” These are just a handful of terms the media has used to describe campaign, ‘corporate research’ and ‘strategic communications’. Even the lighter description “opposition” doesn’t quite capture what companies like Cambridge Analytica do. 

The Cambridge Analytica scandal has highlighted that the power and dominance of the Silicon Valley – Google and Facebook and a handful of very wealthy individuals – are at the centre of the global tectonic shift we are currently witnessing, as democracies are increasingly being stage-managed by those who can afford the props and scripts. In a way, it was inevitable that sooner or later, politics would be reduced to branding and ‘market competition’, and that political outcomes would become aligned with neoliberal outcomes. 

Surveillance strategies and targeted marketing also include the use of biometrics. The private company Endless gain, for example, use biometrics and psychology and “to understand human emotions and behaviour, and Psychology to optimise human emotions and behaviour. Our way helps our clients convert more customers, keep them for longer, and have them spend more.” 

Endless Gain claim on their site to “optimise conversions” in the same way that behavioural economists at the Nudge Unit claim to “optimise decision-making”, in their quest to align citizens’ choices with neoliberal outcomes.

The company uses eyetracking, facial expression recognitiongalvanic skin response,  EEG and pupil dilation – biometrics, in addition to conventional psychological research, “bringing together biometric research with findings from decades of academic psychology –particularly on emotional decision-making and the psychology of persuasion – to make changes to your site that increase both revenue and conversions.”  

Other companies, such as the hugely influential Crimson Hexagonuse AI.  The company is based in Boston, Massachusetts and has also a European division in London. Edelman Intelligence, a massive PR company, are a client of this company, as are TwitterThe company’s online data library consists of over 1 trillion posts, and includes documents from social networks such as Twitter and Facebook as well as blogs, forums, and news sites. The company’s ForSight platform is a Twitter Certified Product. (See also: The anti-social public relations of the PR industry, which details the intrusive ‘360 degree’ social media ‘listening’ and monitoring posts used by companies to gather data and intelligence and to formulate ‘strategic communications’ to discredit critics)

This level of surveillance and persuasion is deeply intrusive form of commodification and control that effectively exiles citizens from their own characteristics, perceptions, behaviours and choices, while producing lucrative markets aimed at data mining, behavioural analysis, prediction and modification.

Furthermore, the data collection, analysis and profiling is likely to build in discrimination, reflecting and reinforcing material and power inequalities. Credit reference agencies, insurance companies and the financial sector have previously demonstrated this point only too well. 

The data mining, analytics and persuasion market exists because large corporations and governments want to micromanage and psychoregulate citizens. However, such intrusive surveillance and micromanagement poses fundamental challenges to our democratic norms and personal autonomy.  

Tailored and targeted ‘strategic communications’ and persuasions are based on behaviour modelling and presupposed preferences, which may or may not be accurate or comprehensive. However, such an approach forecloses the possibility of citizens seeing alternative choices and developing new preferences: of accessing a full range of choices, learning and developing. It reduces citizens, commodifying their biology, psychology and decision-making, and transforming human nature into profits for big businesses and maintaining the power of the establishment.

Carole Cadwalladr, writing for the Guardian and Observer, revealed how the foundations of an authoritarian surveillance state have been laid in the US and how British democracy was subverted through a covert, far-reaching plan of coordination enabled by a US billionaire, Robert Mercer. And how we are in the midst of a massive land and power grab by billionaires via our data. Data which is being silently amassed, harvested, analysed, profiled and stored. Whoever owns this data owns the future.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal highlights the erosion of democracy because governments are paying to use these sophisticated techniques of persuasion to unduly influence voters and to maintain a hegemony, amplifying and normalising dominant political narratives that justify neoliberal policies. ‘Behavioural science’ is used on every level of our society, from many policy programmes – it’s become embedded in our institutions – to forms of “expertise”, and through the state’s influence on the mass media, and other social and cultural systems.

It also operates at a subliminal level: it’s embedded in the very language that is being used in political narratives. Repetition is an old propaganda technique that sometimes works. The ‘Strong and Stable’ ideological motif of the government, however, was a tad overused, and led to ridicule because it became so visible as a ill-conceived technique of persuasion. But what about all of the psycholinguistic cues that remain opaque?

The debate should not be about whether or not these methods of citizen ‘conversion’ are wholly effective, because that distracts us from the corrupt intentions behind the use of them, and especially, the implications for citizen autonomy, civil rights and democracy.

Whistleblower Christopher Wylie has said that British voters in the lead up to the referendum to exit the European Union were duped by the Leave campaign. Speaking to MPs on Tuesday 27 March, the former Cambridge Analytica employee described how pro-Brexit groups like BeLeave used Canadian firm Aggregate IQ (AIQ) to profile and target online voters with psychologically tailored “strategic communications”, using personal data allegedly gleaned from Facebook. 

“I think it is completely reasonable to say that there could have been a different outcome of the referendum had there not been, in my view, cheating,” he said. The revelations and accusations came almost exactly one year before the UK leaves the EU on 29 March, 2019.

Wylie said AIQ was subcontracted through Cambridge Analytica, a political data company which also stands accused of manipulating voter behaviour to help Donald Trump win the US presidential election. The comments follow separate accusations that the Leave campaign may have also broken electoral laws on spending thresholds, which are capped at £7m. The Leave campaign spent £6.77m but then allegedly received a £625,000 donation from BeLeave, a youth Brexit group. The donation was then spent on AIQ services, in breach of the £7m limit on campaign spending. Wylie also described the spending breach as part of a “common plan” coordinated by the pro-Brexit campaign.

Cambridge Analytica is by no means the only private company that has hugely profited from corrupt methodologies, abominable politicking and the run-up to Brexit. The company is a pioneer in ‘behavioural microtargeting’ – using online data to build up a sophisticated psychological profile of voters, then targeting those individuals with ‘bespoke’ psychologically tailored messages, and the media, with carefully curated narratives that indulge group tendencies – drawn from social psychology and in-depth knowledge of social science –  and social norms to influence political outcomes.

The UK Policy Group

There are many other similar companies which are quietly raising substantial antitrust concerns.

The UK Policy Group, for example, is the UK branch of a notorious US political organisation – Definers Public Affairs – which has worked for Donald Trump’s administration and has aggressively targeted his critics. The company boasts: “What sets us apart is our focus on political-style research, war room media monitoring, political due diligence and rapid response communications.

“We help our clients navigate public affairs challenges, influence media narratives and make informed decisions to disrupt crowded markets.

“The global political, policy and corporate communications landscapes are evolving rapidly. Decision makers need high quality research to make informed decisions and need relevant content to drive the court of public opinion and provide context to shape decisions by policymakers.

“With affiliates in Washington, D.C., and Silicon Valley, UK Policy Group employs some of the best communicators, researchers and media analysts as part of our team.”

Former government officials are advising this highly controversial company. The UK company’s vice president is Andrew Goodfellow, who was the Conservative Party’s director of policy and research. 

Ameet Gill, who was the former director of strategy Number 10 and founder of lobbying company Hanbury Strategyis providing consultancy to the firm. Official documents reveal that David Cameron ’s former director of strategy, Gill, was given permission by parliamentary authorities to accept a contract advising the firm through his political strategy company Hanbury Strategy. Pelham Groom, a company director, was previously head of ‘media monitoring’ for the Conservative Party. Chris Brannigan, Theresa May’s former Director of Government Relations is also a member of the group’s advisory board. Rhiannon Glover is an analyst, formerly, the late duty press officer for the Conservative Party and researcher in the office of Nick Hurd.

The company is also partnered with Trygve Olson, of Viking Strategies, who advised the European People’s Party in the 2009 EU elections and worked as a consultant to the Republican Party in the US.

The company says: “We offer our clients an end-to-end system of research on issues and opponents, monitoring the news cycles, and shaping narratives via rapid rebuttal communications.

UKPG provides our clients with unparalleled campaign-style research as the foundation of driving informed decisions that allow them to shape public opinion, and impact outcomes.”

The company employs people to find damaging information on political rivals. Scrutinising the personal histories, online videos and posts of Labour Party candidates, the company collects dossiers of potential discrediting and smear material to be handed to the Conservative Party. It’s understood that the information is then handed to right-wing websites and newspapers to construct narratives and add a veneer of evidence to negative articles.

The company expansion by US-based company Definers Public Affairs came at a time when US lobbying firms were eyeing UK expansion “in anticipation of flood of Brexit-related work, using their capacity to influence the national news cycle’ and as a ‘master of opposition research”. 

Ian Lavery MP, Labour Party Chair, said: “I am disappointed but not surprised to hear that in an attempt to deflect from their total lack of direction and policy, the Tories are reduced to digging low and dragging British politics through the gutter, in the desperate hope that they may find some salacious morsel.

“This kind of base mudslinging has no place in British democratic debate, and deflects from the real issues facing people today. It is time that Theresa May stops spending money and effort on these tactics and focuses on policies to improve the lives of those who have suffered because of her government’s heartless policies.”

Brexit

There is a clear danger that the UK, having “taken back control” will simply hand enormous power over to corporate lobbyists who see Brexit as “a once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to influence the way the UK is governed. Those companies that can influence policies and regulations – such as trade policies, labour laws and environmental regulations – stand to profit hugely.

For those who are worried they won’t, well there are a huge number of think tanks, consultancies and PR companies ready to lobby on their behalf and guide them through the Brexit fallout, all for a hefty sum of post-Brexit private profits. 

In the wake of the EU referendum, many law firms have also created stand alone ‘Brexit’ teams in order to cope with the increasing demand from clients asking how leaving the EU will impact them. Just after the referendum, companies are bringing together existing partners to build out their Brexit teams, mainly composed of individuals with EU/competition, trade and regulatory backgrounds. 

Former government lawyers can earn significantly more money in the private sector. In return, law firms get people with not just the relevant legal skills, but also insider knowledge and connections: people with “a unique understanding of the administrative and political processes across Westminster, Whitehall and Brussels”.

Law firms are hiring politicians, government lawyers and other officials in a bid to position themselves as the go-to people for such advice.

Some of the notable recent moves of government ministers through the revolving  door to private profiteering, are:

Paul Hardy, House of Lords → DLA Piper Senior Director Competition law, International Trade

Andrew Hood, Foreign and Commonwealth Office → Dechert Senior Director International Trade, Government Regulation

Francis Maude, Government → Covington & Burling Senior Advisor International Trade, Regulation

Anthony Parry, HM Treasury → Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer Consultant EU Law, International Trade.

Here is a list of ‘go-to’ private companies that are profiting from handing out Brexit advice and lobbying on behalf of big business:

Media Intelligence Partners

Conservative hack Nick Wood, who was once Iain Duncan Smith’s former press aide, set up his own PR consultancy, Media Intelligence Partners in 2004. From 1998 until 2004 he was the Media director for Conservative Party.

However, a break from the Conservatives was absolutely not on the cards for this die-hard Thatcherite. Wood, axed by Michael Howard in 2004, went on to represent Iain Duncan Smith’s think-tank and advised selected Tory parliamentary candidates on PR in the run-up to subsesquent election in 2005.

Wood, who held senior political roles at The Times and Daily Express during a 20-year journalistic career, served under both Iain Duncan Smith and William Hague during one of the most internecine periods in Tory history. 

He has worked with around 50 clients including “prestigious” international think- tanks like the Heritage Foundation and some of the “thought-leaders in UK public policy,” such as the Centre for Social Justice. MIP worked with pro-Brexit Leave means Leave and Economists for Free Trade, formerly called Economists for Brexit. This group has a powerful influence on the media.

Advisors for Economists for Free Trade include Tim Montgomerie, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Owen Paterson, Viscount Ridley and John Longworth, Former Director British Chambers of Commerce, Co-Chairman of Leave Means Leave.

Wood has also worked with major private sector clients including HSBC Bank and eBay. In 2008 he also established the media training and presentation company Pitch-Perfect with Jonathan Haslam, a former Downing Street Press Secretary. 

Media Intelligence Partners (MIP, sometimes MIPPR)) is a London-based PR and lobbying company. The Telegraph reported in 2009 that four Conservative MPs had claimed more than £66,000 in expenses for services provided by the company. Commons rules state that “advice for individual members on self-promotion or PR for individuals or political parties” is banned. However, that didn’t stop Iain Duncan Smith claiming more than £11,000 on his office expense account for services between June 2005 and December 2007. 

Andrew Mitchell, the shadow international development secretary, billed the taxpayer for £18,800 for “research and secretarial services” between April 2006 and July 2008. 

Nadine Dorries, the Conservative MP for Mid-Bedfordshire, claimed almost £20,000 in office expenses for “research” from the consultancy between November 2006 and May last year, while Philip Dunne, another backbencher, claimed for £17,000 for “research and secretarial services”.  

MIP provides services to a number of Brexit lobby groups. As well as being heavily involved in the campaign leading up to the referendum, and Brexit campaigns since, MIP also sells consultancy services to clients.

It says of its ‘Brexit Consultancy’: “MIP is ideally placed to help business leaders navigate this challenging period of change. We help our clients reduce risk and grasp the opportunities of the UK’s exit from the EU. Our insight and expertise on the negotiations and the likely outcomes are invaluable to business leaders in all sectors.”

The company says that during the EU referendum campaign, it “worked closely with current and former cabinet ministers”, including the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, David Davis, and International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox. It says it ‘remains at the forefront of the campaign to secure the best possible deal for Britain.”

MIP were behind the launch Conservatives for Britain, the organisation that lead the Conservative campaign to leave the European Union. The launch appeared in the Sunday Telegraph on 7 June 2015. Conservatives for Britain was founded by MP Steve Baker and MEP David Campbell Bannerman and went on to attract the support of over 100 Conservative Party MPs.

Grassroots Out

MIP ran the ‘communications and strategy’ campaign forGrassroots Out in the four months prior to the June 2016 referendum. Four senior MIP employees were seconded to the campaign, directing the press office and providing ‘high-level strategic advice’ to the campaign’s key spokespeople. MIP also managed a nationwide Grassroots Out tour, featuring speeches from Chris GraylingOwen Paterson and Liam Fox. Founded by Conservative MPs Peter BoneTom Pursglove and the Labour MP Kate HoeyGrassroots Out claimed cross-party support, including from MIP, the Brexit Secretary David Davis and Nigel Farage, the ex-leader of UKIP.

Leave Means Leave

Since the EU referendum, MIP has been working with Leave Means Leave “to make sure the instructions of the British people are acted upon”. This has involved MIP communicating with ministers on Leave Means Leave‘s behalf. 

Other Brexit-related work includes MIP undertaking media work for the launch of a joint Centre for Social Justice and Legatum Institute report called 48:52 Healing a Divided Britain in September 2016.

The MIP site says: “We devise effective and strategic media outreach, implementing bespoke public relations campaigns. We help our clients achieve their goals across both traditional platforms and more modern online and social media.

“We have unrivalled experience of the media landscape, from Fleet Street to broadcasters and online media. Our staff have worked at the highest levels of national newspapers and international broadcast organisations and have in-depth knowledge of the media’s editorial processes.”

Wood set up MIP with then former Central Office staffer Penny Mordaunt and Nick Longworth, the broadcast PR specialist also axed in the PR Officers’ cull that ended Wood’s five-plus years running Tory media operations.

Edgar Johnson is a Senior Account Executive at MIP and works on a variety projects ranging from new product and company launches to “bespoke political campaigns.” He also assists with MIP’s digital communications and research services.

Prior to joining MIP, Johnson worked as a researcher for Mark Harper MP in the UK Parliament.

He has “valuable campaigning experience from the 2015 General Election where he wrote election literature, devised social media content and campaigned on the front line across several key marginal seats. This helped to return a full brace of Conservative MPs across his region for the first time in nearly 30 years.”

He was also part of MIP’s team providing communications and strategy for the cross-party Grassroots Out campaign during the 2016 EU referendum. During the campaign, he co-ordinated successful events across the country and managed one of Grassroots Out’s largest rallies featuring current Secretary of State for International Trade, Rt. Hon Liam Fox MP. MIP were paid a total of £42,828.00 for their services.

Brexit Consultancy: the result of years of lobbying for vested interests

MIP say: “The United Kingdom’s historic decision to leave the European Union represents a period of uncertainty and opportunity for Britain’s business community. The consequences for legislation, regulation, tariffs and trade rules are huge – and will affect UK firms operating domestically and internationally.

“MIP is ideally placed to help business leaders navigate this challenging period of change. We help our clients reduce risk and grasp the opportunities of the UK’s exit from the EU. Our insight and expertise on the negotiations and the likely outcomes are invaluable to business leaders in all sectors.

“Our Brexit advisory service is headed up by our Chief Executive, Nick Wood. Before founding MIP in 2004, Nick served as Director of Communications to the Conservative Party, having previously been Chief Political Correspondent for The Times newspaper.

“Nick and our MIP staff were at the heart of a Leave campaign that upset the odds, winning the support of 17.4 million people in the largest democratic exercise in the nation’s history.

“We worked with politicians from across the political spectrum, as well as senior business people and campaigning organisations, to bring about the referendum over a number of years. We then worked intensively for four months of the campaign itself to win a historic victory. 

“During this time, we advised and worked closely with current and former cabinet ministers, including the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, David Davis, and International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox. We remain at the forefront of the campaign to secure the best possible deal for Britain.” (My emphasis)

It then says: “To learn more about how we can help your business capitalise on the opportunities of Brexit, please get in touch.”

In February 2017, the Electoral Commission launched an investigation into referendum spending by Vote Leave and Britain Stronger in Europe. Taking a lead from a series of articles, particularly by Carole Cadwalladr in the Observer, the Commission began looking at the role of AggregateIQ in the referendum campaign.

The Electoral Commission wrote to Darren Grimes, this time asking him to “please explain why you chose to commission AggregateIQ in particular to undertake the work you reported in your spending return, rather than another company.”

Replying on March 3, Grimes told the Electoral Commission that he decided to spend more than £675,000 with AggregateIQ after volunteering with Vote Leave and watching the US presidential election process. “I attended some Vote Leave Ltd events during the campaign as a volunteer activist and socialised with some members of staff. I asked and was told that AIQ was running Vote Leave’s digital campaign and I also became aware that AIQ had worked on Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, that I was greatly impressed by. I was therefore confident that they could assist us in putting the proposed donation to effect in the time available,” Grimes said in emails to the Electoral Commission.

On 11 May 2018, the Electoral Commission found against Leave.EU, which ran a separate campaign to the official pro-Brexit group Vote Leave, following its investigations into alleged irregularities during the referendum campaign. It found that Leave.EU had unlawfully overspent at least £77,380 – 10% more than the statutory spending limit – though the real figure “may well have been considerably higher”. 

Additionally, its investigations found that Leave.EU inaccurately reported three loans it had received, including “a lack of transparency and incorrect reporting around who provided the loans, the dates the loans were entered into, the repayment date and the interest rate.” Finally, Leave.EU had also failed to provide the required invoice or receipt for “97 payments of over £200, totalling £80,224.”

The Electoral Commission’s director of political finance and regulation and legal counsel complained that the £70,000 fine he was permitted to impose on Leave.EU did not meet the severity of the offences committed by a “key player in the EU referendum”. Further he announced that there was ample evidence of criminal activity from the group campaign chief, Liz Bilney, and that she “knowingly or recklessly signed a false declaration accompanying the Leave.EU referendum spending return”. The Electoral Commission has referred the matter to the police.

Leave.EU’s co-founder, Aaron Banks, has stated that he rejects the outcome of the investigation and will be challenging it in court.

In January 2018, the UK government’s own Brexit analysis was leaked; it showed that UK economic growth would be stunted by 2%-8% for at least 15 years following secession from the EU, depending on the leave scenario. 

The UK continues to learn the hard way that democracy and journalism is in danger of being overwhelmed by rogue politics and a communications industry revolution that accelerates the spread of pro-establishment lies, misinformation and dubious claims, commonly called ‘briefings’.

Many observers point to the two major events – Brexit and the election of Donald Trump – that signal moments of peril for democracy and the press. Both of these events are linked by a handful of people – Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer, for example.

The lobbying industry shapes policies that suit big business and a minority of the population. PR and communications companies are often involved in the circulation of malicious, pro-Conservative ‘strategic communications’ on behalf of those powerful and wealthy enough to benefit from spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on private companies every time there is an election or referendum, the resilience of populist propaganda, racism and sexism and the emergence of the so-called post-truth era erodes the fundamental foundations of democracy and corrupts what was once the cornerstone of ethical journalism. 

Conservative donor Robert Mercer invested $15 million in Cambridge Analytica, where his daughter Rebekah is a board member. Credit Patrick McMullan, via Getty Images.

 

Related

Conservatives for hire: cashing in on Brexit

The government hired several murky companies plying the same methods as Cambridge Analytica in their election campaign

Calibrating Academy- Hubert Huzzah

The revelations about Cambridge Analytica indicate clearly that western governments are subverting democracy

Cambridge Analytica try to dismiss Chris Wylie’s evidence as ‘conspiracy theories’ and ‘false evidence’

 


 

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European fundamental rights charter to be excluded in the EU withdrawal Bill, including protection from eugenic policy

Image result for human rights

The result of the EU referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union, and forthcoming withdrawal, carries some obvious and very worrying implications for the protection of citizens rights and freedoms in the UK. Historically the UK Conservative government has strongly opposed much of Europe’s social rights agenda.

So it’s very concerning that the House of Commons has voted down a Labour amendment to ensure that our basic human rights are protected after Brexit, as set out in the European Union Charter.

The EU Withdrawal Bill, which is currently in its report stage in the House of Commons, will transfer some existing European Union law into UK law when Britain leaves the EU in March 2019. A Labour amendment, tabled in the name of Jeremy Corbyn, sought to retain the Fundamental Rights provisions in the Charter but it has been voted down in the Commons by 321 votes to 297.

The Conservatives have 316 seats and form a minority government after signing a confidence and supply” agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). However this indicates that some 57 other MPs (besides Labour’s 245), voted for Labour’s amendment. (You can see all of the proposed amendments in full here and read the full debate on the Hansard record here.)

Government ministers claim that the protections enshrined in the Charter either already exist in British law or else will be ‘incorporated through other EU directives.’

The bill states: “The Charter of Fundamental Rights is not part of domestic law on or after exit day.”

However, one of Theresa May’s new ministers has claimed the UK’s plan to drop the EU charter of fundamental rights after Brexit would help avoid an ‘extra layer’ of human rights, which contradicts the government’s previous assurance that no protections would be lost.

Rather worryingly, Suella Fernandes, who was promoted to the Brexit department last week, warned in November that transposing the ‘flabby’ charter into British law would give UK citizens additional protections on issues such as “biomedicine, eugenics, personal data and collective bargaining.”

However, the very fact that anyone at all in government objects to retaining these fundamental rights and protections indicates that we very clearly need them.

In an article co-written for the Telegraph with John Penrose, MP for Weston-Super-Mare, Fernandes said the government was right not to copy the charter into the EU withdrawal bill because otherwise “lawyers will love the extra layers of rights and the fees that they bring, and it’s also a core part of the Brussels project too”.

She also says: “We’re about to face another wall of amendments trying to insert the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights into UK law after we leave the EU. Human rights law has become complicated. Britain should be proud that we’re a founder member of the European Convention of Human Rights, drafted after the horrors of the Second World War.”

It’s very strange then, that after the trite discussion regarding the atrocities of the Second World War, she fails to acknowledge the need for “flabby” EU protections, which include a fundamental safeguard to ensure the terrible, ultimate and catastrophic consequences of eugenic thinking and policies never happen again. 

It’s worth keeping in mind that the Conservatives have already introduced one eugenic policy, by stealth, under the linguistic guise of ‘incentivising behavioural change’. (See also: UN to question the Conservatives about the two-child restriction on tax credits). 

Fernandes’ comments directly undermine the government’s claims that it was only refusing to accept the EU charter of fundamental rights because the document was already covered by British law. 

It is not. 

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Amnesty International, Liberty, the Fawcett Society and National Aids Trust, among others, have warned that the bill, which is returned to the House of Commons today (16 January), “will not protect people’s rights in the UK as the government promised”. They say: “This is in large part because the bill removes the EU charter of fundamental rights from our law.” 

The leading civil rights organisations spell out profound concerns that a raft of rights will be jettisoned with no adequate replacement once the bill becomes law and the UK leaves the EU.

They say, in a letter published in the Observer, that a ‘human rights deficit’ will be created by the government’s EU withdrawal bill, leaving many different groups in society without adequate protection.

David Isaac, the chair of the EHRC, the UK’s own independent human rights watchdog, said: “The government has promised there will be no rowing back on people’s rights after Brexit. If we lose the charter protections, that promise will be broken. It will cause legal confusion and there will be gaps in the law.

“While securing trade deals is vital for our economy, equality and human rights are also essential. They must also be the focus for the type of country we want to be after Brexit. Current protections must not be jeopardised.”

According to the signatories to the letter, “The charter protects rights important to all of us: including rights to dignity, protection of personal data and health; and protections for workers, women, children, and older people, LGBTI and disabled people.”

The government maintains that the charter will cease to be part of UK law when Britain leaves the EU but insists that rights will not be weakened following Brexit. However, the signatories claim that independent legal advice shows this to be wrong. They say:

“Losing it creates a human rights hole because the charter provides some rights and judicial remedies that have no clear equivalents in UK law.” 

“Furthermore, by keeping the wide and complex body of EU law while throwing away the charter, which is the code to unlock it, the government risks creating confusion, jamming itself in a mountain of legal cases.”

According to the EHRC, rights that would be lost, and which do not have direct equivalents in other UK human rights law, include a freestanding right to non-discrimination, protection of a child’s best interests and the right to human dignity, as well as bioethic protections, including from eugenics and preserving the right to democratic, collective bargaining.

Trevor Tayleur, an associate professor at the University of Law, explained that the charter, although narrower in focus than the Human Rights Act, offers a more robust defence of fundamental rights.

He says: “At present, the main means of protecting human rights in the UK is the Human Rights Act 1998.” (HRA)

“This incorporates the bulk of the rights and freedoms enshrined in the European convention on human rights into UK law and thereby enables individuals to enforce their convention rights in the UK courts. However, there is a significant limitation to the protection afforded by the HRA because it does not override acts of parliament.

“In contrast, the protection afforded by the EU charter of fundamental rights is much stronger because where there is a conflict between basic rights contained in the charter and an act of the Westminster parliament, the charter will prevail over the act.”

The government previously managed to head off a rebellion on the EU Rights Charter issue by Conservative MPs, led by the former attorney general Dominic Grieve, by promising a “right-by-right analysis” of how UK law already covers the same ground as the charter on areas such as children, the environment, data and consumer rights. However, Labour and legal experts said the document showed only how UK law fell short in providing the same protections as the EU charter of fundamental rights.

Labour’s Kier Starmer said: “The document they released fails to provide any assurance that essential rights will be protected once we leave the EU. On the contrary, it takes rights from the charter and scatters them to their original sources: the polar opposite of effective human rights protection.

“We need a cast-iron guarantee in law that the rights contained in the charter will be given the same legal protection as those currently contained in the Human Rights Act.

“This is not a party political issue. It is about the type of nation we want to be. Britain should be a proud advocate of human rights. That’s why I would urge all MPs to back Labour’s amendment to the withdrawal bill when it is debated.”

During debates on the EU Withdrawal Bill, Dominic Grieve said that failing to incorporate the Charter into UK law after Brexit would send out “a really strange message” about the Conservative’s approach to human rights, and has urged peers to consider the issue when the bill passes to the House of Lords.

Many of us have long thought the Conservative’s message is actually very loud and clear, despite being couched in the Orwellian terms and glib, empty assurances of despots in waiting, a government of tyrants just biding their time.

Grieve went on to say: “I listen very carefully to what the Prime Minister says about modernising the Conservative Party, about giving it a broad appeal to younger people, about trying to ensure that we reflect current norms and standards in our country and give effect to them in the sorts of policies we develop.

And yet … it does seem to me that in simply batting this issue away and saying don’t worry, it’s all going to be perfectly alright, without even coming up with a plan for the future about possibly adding a bill of rights clause or rights clauses to the Human Rights Act, we’re sending out a really very strange message about our attitude on this side of the House to matters which I believe many people in this country now see as being rights of a fundamental character, particularly on issues like LGBT and things of that sort.”

Some lawyers are also very concerned that the government’s refusal to incorporate the charter into UK law will weaken human rights protections. Schona Jolly QC, a human rights and equalities lawyer, said the government’s analysis “fails to tackle the legal reality that abandoning the charter indeed does remove rights that UK citizens currently enjoy and adds to the complexity, confusion and uncertainty surrounding the basis to protect and enforce substantive rights post-Brexit.

“Take, for example, the freestanding right to equality contained within article 21 of the charter. There is no equivalent in domestic law. The Equality Act does not have constitutional status. A constitutional right would underpin all statutory equality rights to provide a strongly focused standard against which state action can be judged, as well as providing a solid interpretative basis by which our domestic common law can be developed.

“The government’s analysis doesn’t begin to deal with this acute loss of one of the most foundational rights in our democracy after we leave the EU. So too in respect of other rights.

“If the government is truly committed to non-regression of rights, it must commit itself in statute. Its weak legal analysis, conducted as an act of self-justification after having already taken the decision to drop the charter, falls demonstrably and critically short in plugging the post-Brexit rights gap.”

The government has a very poor record on observing and upholding the human rights of disabled people, children and women. It’s also a government that has cultivated an extremely divided, unequal, increasingly parochial and nationalist society, which is organised on the establishment of hierarchies of perceived human worth. Diversity has been politically and culturally devalued. Once again, historically marginalised social groups are experiencing a growth in prejudice and discrimination.

This has provided fertile social conditions where it is deemed acceptable that eugenics has crept back into public discourse, though we sometimes fail to recognise the basic arguments of eugenics when they reappear, as few advocates claim the term to describe their beliefs nowadays.

Ignoring the civil rights of some groups and individuals becomes terrifyingly easy in the face of those holding positions of power determined to radically organise society how they choose to, and backed by a group of ‘experts’. Any policy that aims at restricting some citizen’s choices, autonomy and freedoms, and changing the behaviours of some social groups, based on an idea that the groups are in some way ‘defective’ (characteristically – physically, cognitively, psychologically, or behaviourally) is eugenic.

Behavioural economics, for example, is founded on the idea that governments and behavoural economists know what is best for individuals and society, while arguing that poor citizens who need welfare support are cognitively incompetent and ‘deviant’.

For example:

“Thus, behavioral economics can reinvigorate [Conservative] arguments about the perverse effects of the welfare state in two distinct ways. For starters, we need behavioral economics to make this critique coherent. Once they have been explicitly placed on a behavioral foundation, claims about the perverse effects of various programs become harder to ignore or dismiss. More importantly, there are good empirical reasons to think that behavioral economics better describes the poor than it does the rest of the population. Behavioral economics is therefore exceptionally relevant to poverty policy.”  From: Behavioral Economics and Perverse Effects of the Welfare State, Scott Beaulier and Bryan Caplan, 2007.

I’ll be writing a more in depth analysis on this topic in the near future, which builds on some of my previous work, such as The connection between Universal Credit, ordeals and experiments in electrocuting laboratory rats, critical discussions of behavioural economics and the political misuse of psychology and ‘science’ more generally. 

To conclude here, however, we have a government that has aggressively denied that its policies have violated human rights, despite irrefutable empirical evidence presented by the United Nations and other organisations that have held independent inquiries and published their findings. This is a government that has demonstrated nothing but contempt for human rights and democracy more generally, and have more than once proposed to scrap the UK’s Human Rights Act

Given that we have a regressive, authoritarian government in office with a shameful track record of human rights violations already, following Brexit, what could possibly go right?

Related:

Disabled people’s human rights in further jeopardy because of Brexit

A strong case for the Human Rights Act 

The government has failed to protect the human rights of children

Human rights are the bedrock of democracy, which the Tories have imperiled

UK Government still in breach of the human rights convention on gender discrimination

EU leaders say UK can reverse Brexit decision if it wants to

 


 

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Leave Director admitted the Brexit referendum was won by lying to the public

Buried in a 19,800 word Spectator essay written by former online editor and Vote Leave director Dominic Cummings is an admission: The Brexit referendum was won by lying to the public.

The piece, found here, is well worth reading but also falls victim to classic “mansplaining” (explaining something in a condescending or patronizing way) of a complex issue with many words wasted on prose that most politicians would be proud of, working around the subject rather than delving in to the heart of it.

Of course, that’s for a very good reason, because at the heart of the vote to leave the European Union is an entanglement of lies and propagandist sensationalism that even the most brave souls wouldn’t dare admit to.

There is the admission that the NHS wouldn’t really take back our £350 million EU fee, and that immigration wouldn’t really be capped, and that standards of living wouldn’t really change if we left the EU. All of which are matters that the general public voted on, and all are incorrect.

And so to the damning paragraph that outs the Leave Campaign for what it was:

“Pundits and MPs kept saying ‘why isn’t Leave arguing about the economy and living standards’. They did not realise that for millions of people, £350m/NHS was about the economy and living standards – that’s why it was so effective. It was clearly the most effective argument not only with the crucial swing fifth but with almost every demographic. Even with UKIP voters it was level-pegging with immigration. Would we have won without immigration? No. Would we have won without £350m/NHS? All our research and the close result strongly suggests No. Would we have won by spending our time talking about trade and the Single Market? No way.”

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Universal discontent with Tory government triggers intergalactic referendum

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England to go from infinity to beyond.

As the pound reaches its lowest value since 1985, and Moody’s lower our credit ratings yet again, many Remain campaigners are saying stuff like “There goes the neighbourhood and the economy.” However, those in the Out camp announce they are pushing for a new referendum next year. The slogan “We’re takin’ our earth back” trended across all social media platforms yesterday and today. The Leave campaigners are gathering momentum again. They claim that it’s only by exiting the universe that we will make things better, redistribute wealth and power, have social justice and stop Tories from being Tories. They say that maybe we will even get some of them to resign and prevent other people from doing stupid things in England. However, the campaign has already gained support from some Tory MPs.

Meanwhile England First launched a petition in the wake of the EU referendum to ask the government to immediately deport all of the “Macks” in England. The far-right organisation have called for anyone with “Mc” , “Mac” or “Mack” in their surname and those who like haggis and tossing their cabers in public to be sent home.

Dickie Richardhead the foreign affairs spokesperson for England First said: “Quite properly so. They come over here wearing kilts and swinging their big sporruns at our weddings and it ain’t on. It’s unhygienic because they don’t wear any underpants. English culture and Calvin Kleins in english churches, that’s what I say. It’s about time we put them out of our misery.” 

Due to a slightly catastrophic typo on the petition, however, the government have subsequently agreed to deport everyone from Sunderland. A spokesperson for England First said that predictive text was to blame, and added: “Bugger, Mackems make up half of our membership.”  

A statement released yesterday from the E exit campaign said: “The universe’s powers that be are also do-gooders, screaming virtue signallers, bloody Guardian readers and wishy washy liberals. And multicultural. They’re all the same, which is probably self-serving, out of touch, anti-democratic and like, really disempowering for England. 

It’s not even the case that they were democratically elected and we don’t get a say in how things are run. It’s a diabolical bloody mystery, in fact. No-one seems to know what happened before the big bang for example, but we demand accountability and transparency. We deserve justifications for our existence, we deserve answers about all of that dark matter stuff and about gravity and we will demand that democratic right for english citizens from our english government. 

Being in the universe costs us billions of pounds every year. The universe imposes laws on us that we don’t want, like the second law of thermodynamics. English laws for english people is what I say. It’s about time the imposed restrictions on the speed of light were lifted, too. And vacuum cleaners. And banannas.

Then there’s the millions of illegal invisible aliens who sneak through space wormholes to swamp our country’s public services, take our houses and women. And they steal our jobs. They persuade employers to pay them much less than us because they just don’t care, they really like being poor and exploited by the capital class, even though they know that means we will end up getting less wages too. And they don’t speak any english. 

We also disagree with the moon, it wasn’t in any manifesto, we didn’t vote for it, it ain’t democratic and we will definitely organise a protest and vote against it. A scientist once tried to con us all, saying the moon disappears when you look away, but we know he’s a bloody liar, because it would take everyone’s willpower not to look at it to make it go away. That’s just a fob-off because no-one has that much willpower or attention span these days. Quantum physics proves it. Sod’s law, isn’t it? 

We have to have our sovereignty, the queen and the final say in our own laws, our own cultural identity and whatnot. English things for english people, that’s what we say. Though we don’t like them much, some of the left-wing E exiters say that a universe exit could topple the government, well, it might, anyway, and it will definitely let ’em know what we think, as we are very angry with just about everything except England, which is great. The government should all resign and go off with their power, money, raunchy birds, big houses, chums and additional leisure time to really think about what they’ve done, I say make them suffer, that’s the best punishment for ’em. 

So we want the new referendum to be held next year.” 

The Remain campaigners have already started a fresh crusade of scaremongering, claiming that if we left the universe, we would all die a horrible death.

But the opposition say “We know they are just telling fibs, representing bankers, private tycoons and that this is an elitist agenda. No-one really knows for certain what would happen if we left, many Conservative MPs have reassured us that we will still negotiate and strike up robust trading deals in the nothingness.”

We should all have faith that England will be great again. There’s nothing like a good protest vote to give the Establishment two fingers.

black-hole-1
A feeding black hole (quasar). The ultimate Brexit and E exit plan involves passing through the accretion disc, sneaking past the event horizon and then going through an economic process of spaghettification through the eye of a subatomic sized needle. 

You know, it could work...

I got this response on Facebook:-

Joan Dematas:  No. Your wrong. The referendum is over. Period. Who announced a referendum?

 


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A view from the Overton window: through the looking glass darkly

 

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“The UK is a divided country” is a phrase being bandied around a lot, especially in the aftermath of the referendum, and it is of course true. We are divided. We have politically constructed categories of scapegoats, outgroups, uncertainty, disempowerment, low wages, our public services are being dismantled, and we are witnessing massive inequality and growing poverty. The recipe for anomie. Many people feel despair and are fearful of the future.

We have a nation of oppressed people wanting to see others oppressed. The real oppressors, however, are getting a free ride on the back of their own purposefully divisive and diversionary tactics. Dominant narratives and neoliberal ideology – smoke and mirrors; reductive soundbites, dodgy statistics and carefully constructed, cunning fact-proof screens. And yes, the media, directed by the government, have played a significant part in trying to shape what we see and think about, manipulating public opinion. Most of the Tories wanted to leave the EU, Cameron wasn’t typical of his party.

I don’t blame the Scottish people for wanting their independence one bit, particularly from this side of the EU referendum. But that means we will shrivel a little more. England, the husk.

But a divided country hasn’t happened just because of these things. Some of the irrational statements I have heard over the last few years include commentary about how some traditional Labour voters feel the party “let them down” and no longer reflect their interests. Well, I do hope the Tories do better for you, then. Because they’re clearly SO much better at reflecting working-class interests – the new “party of the workers” they mocked. Yet Conservatism in a nutshell is all about reducing worker’s rights and reducing pay so that private companies can make big profits from a cheap and desperate reserve army of labor. And if you reduce welfare provision and make receipt of benefits highly conditional – provision that’s already paid for by working people –  the subsequent rising level of desperation drives many to increasingly insecure jobs for much less pay in order to simply survive.

The “all the same” lie was always a Right-wing expediency, it’s about disempowering and fragmenting the Left. It worked. The Narxists got very narked, with their sense of alienation, and their peculiar brand of exclusive socialism (they are “real” socialists apparently). Yet Miliband had denounced Blairism, and would have given us a fair and progressive tax system. Not good enough, some of you said, but then some people are never happy, so with impeccable knee-jerked fallibility, you helped the Tories back in Office. Again.

Chomsky once said that sometimes, the best we can do is vote for the least damaging option. That at least would have marked the beginning, not the end, of campaigning for social justice and pushing for a socialist agenda.

Meanwhile, all of those genuine traditional socialist values of solidarity and cooperation, community and mutual aid, internationalism, equality and diversity, social justice, worker’s rights, trade unionism, well the Right-wing in Office are smashing those from our common vocabulary. And deporting them. The Tories in power, not the Labour party in opposition. But the government can only do that with OUR consent. So we must take some responsibility for that.

Now we had a further Left Labour leader, but of course for some, he ain’t good enough. The media push an elite agenda, and divert attention from the real problems that are being created by a Conservative government’s policies, and irrationally, the opposition party is hated whilst the Government get on with fucking over ordinary people, the economy and the country. Democracy is steadily being dismantled. Public funds are being stolen and redistributed to the very wealthy and powerful. Public services are being destroyed. Some people are dying because of Tory policies. Meanwhile people bicker amongst themselves and irrationally blame each other, the opposition party and vulnerable social groups. Prejudice grows. People are being permitted to hate. Their prejudice is fed and endorsed by the Establishment. Discrimination happens. Violence begins. People get killed. More people will get killed. Many remain indifferent. But sooner or later, they must take responsibility for that.

If you have ever wondered how fascist or totalitarian regimes manage to gain power, and to commit atrocities, apparently with public consent, well take a close look at the psychosocial processes involved, read Gordon Allport’s work on the growth of prejudice, where that can lead, then look more closely at what is unfolding here in the UK, stage by stage. It’s hidden in plain view, advancing by almost inscrutable degrees. But once you see it, you can’t unsee it.

Most Right-wing political systems, from Conservatism to Fascism, succeed to some extent by fostering a strong anti-intellectual prejudice amongst populations. It serves two key purposes. It discourages people from thinking critically and expressing themselves independently, and it discredits those who do (even before they do) by establishing a cultural normative default that serves to alienate people who challenge established narratives, and invites derision and accusations of being “out of touch with real lives and everyday experiences.”  But those “telling it like it is” often aren’t, quite. Seems to me that people’s hearts and minds are becoming directed, focused increasingly by an external, political and economic, narrow and rigid agenda. 

Why are we divided? Some people blame the government and media for their corrosive rhetoric, some say Tory social Darwinist, supremicist ideology and policies that have influenced the nation and pushed people further to the Right are to blame. Some people blame the general public’s stupidity and gullibility. Some people blame “patronising” and “arrogant” academics and all things intellectual. Some people blame the EU. Some people blame the Labour party. A few people have even blamed me. Some people blame the wealthy. Some people blame our faulty decision-making through rubbish cognitive processes that apparently need “nudging.” Some people blame the poor, or single parents, unemployed people, immigrants, sick and disabled people.

“I take full responsibility for this” said hardly anyone, ever.

I blame those people who choose to opt out of collective responsibility-taking and participatory democracy. Oh yes, democracy is not something you HAVE, it’s something you DO. To be divided as a nation requires social groups to want to oppress other groups, and for bystanders to permit that to happen – you have to participate in the process, even if that participation is just as a bystander who says and does nothing or as a person who is prejudiced at a gut and knee-jerk level. 

We really do have to take some responsibility for that.

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Picture courtesy of Dave Sid Poole


Some poignant reflection on what it is to be a socialist

Socialists have always tended to be internationalists. Whereas nationalists believe that the world is divided primarily into different nationalities, geopolitical zones, socialists consider social class to be the primary divide. For socialists, class struggle, not national identity, is the driving force of history. And capitalism creates an international working class that must fight back, united and cooperatively against an international capitalist class.

People who have a nationalist inclination, who view the social world parochially and hierarchically, are more likely than others to hold prejudices toward low-status groups. This is especially true of people who want their own group to dominate and be superior to other groups – a characteristic known in social psychology as “social dominance orientation.” It isn’t only the elite that hold this perspective, either.

But economic and social challenges such as inequality and social injustice will never be addressed by simply drawing a new set of geographical borders.

Any group claiming dominance over another – including the “working class” – is displaying social dominance orientation. The oppressed can be oppressive, too.

It is time to recognise those artificially constructed divisions and unite, for we have nothing left to lose but our chains.

“So comrades come rally
And the last fight let us face”.

The verses of the Internationale were written on 30 June, 1871, in the immediate aftermath of the brutal crushing of the Paris Commune during La Semaine sanglante (“The Bloody Week”). The policies and outcome of the Commune had a significant influence on the ideas of Karl Marx, of course.

The author, Eugène Pottier, was hiding in fear of his life. The lyrics were intended to convey the historical experience of an important workers’ struggle to a worldwide audience. For Pottier, liberty, equality and fraternity meant the promise of a society in which poor people, like himself, had justice.

The Internationale has long been the anthem of the labor’ movement throughout the world. Its power to move people has survived the repression of fascism, the cruel parody that was Stalinism and free market capitalism. Those who sing it need know nothing about it’s history to feel a strong sense of international unity. The Internationale is simultaneously about history, political argument and is a powerful rallying statement. Pottier established a reputation as the workers’ poet. It earned him a seat on the Communal Council representing the 2nd arrondissement.

The sheer power of Pottier’s Internationale lies in the fact that he was able to encapsulate his personal experience of specific events and express them in universal terms. And that identification and recognition is socialism in action.

The Second International (now known as the “Socialist International”) adopted it as its official anthem. The title arises from the First International, which was an alliance of socialist parties formed by Marx and Engels that held a congress in 1864. The author of the anthem’s lyrics, Pottier, attended this congress.

 The Internationale has been translated into many languages, it is a left-wing anthem, and is celebrated by socialists, communists, anarchists, democratic socialists, and some social democrats.

The original French refrain of the song is C’est la lutte finale / Groupons-nous et demain / L’Internationale / Sera le genre humain.

That translates as:

This is the final struggle

 Let us group together and tomorrow

 The Internationale

 Will be the human race.

Right now, that makes me feel like weeping in sorrow.

Related

UKIP: Parochialism, Prejudice and Patriotic Ultranationalism.

Don’t believe everything you think: cognitive dissonance

Inverted totalitarianism. Oh dear

The ultimate aim of the “allthesame” lie is division and disempowerment of the Left

Once you hear the jackboots, it’s too late

 


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Lots of little Englanders wont make Britain great

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 Brendan Cox gave a moving speech yesterday in honour of his wife as worldwide tributes were held on what would have been the MP’s 42nd birthday.

Some people have been angered by my previous article about the murder of MP Jo Cox, and insist that Thomas Mair committed the murder because he was “mentally ill” and unstable. That’s a cop out, it’s taking the comfortable and easy option as far as offering explanations go. Many people are mentally ill, but they do not plan cold-blooded murders. My article explored the political, social, economic and cultural context of prejudice more generally, and the appalling normalisation of a corrosive, far Right rhetoric. It was hardly controversial.

England as a nation has often experienced confusion, seemingly lost and adrift, uncertain of its role since the end of empire, and of course, the rise of devolution. Our sense of collective identity has been portrayed as fragile, especially by the Right wing media. But “national identity” is always a facade. More recently, we witnessed the unprecedented rise of nationalism in Wales and Scotland, where patriotic sentiment runs high, whilst in England, the insular, self-regarding enclave of Government has a strong whiff of a deeply disdainful supremicist Regency aristocracy. There are no local loyalties to be seen there, well, none that extend further than just 1% of the Country. Neither post-imperial cringing nor nationalism will alter that. 

Brexit is an English rather than a British symptom of a collective sense of disempowerment. But those responsible for the erosion of democracy in the UK are in London, not Brussels. It was the Conservatives that provided opportunity for UKIP and the far Right to become established as a populist part of the mainstream political conversation, the Tory rhetoric, founded on social divisions and established hierarchy, has created a space for far Right’s subversive “insurgency”.

And Brexit may well hasten the further breakup of Britain. The constitutional fallout will also extend to Northern Ireland. A Leave vote would turn the open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic into a guarded frontier with Europe, since Ireland would remain a member in the union. This would undermine a major provision of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the peace deal that ended three decades of the Troubles.

Prejudice in the UK is manifested not only in racism, but in dominant narratives and policies directed against sick and disabled people, unemployed people, people on low pay and poor people more generally. There is also a growing culture of sexism, increasingly evident in the impact of Conservative policies. We have never been more fragmented as a society, nor has any other UK government in our lifetime been responsible for such extensive, divisive social outgrouping, systematic exclusion and massive inequality. And it’s intentional. The thing about prejudice is that it multitasks, grows and culminates, invariably, in violence.

Thomas Mair, it emerges, is a neo-Nazi who managed to remain stable and calculating enough to plot, gain weapons and to savagely kill Jo. Furthermore, she was targeted because of her strong beliefs, clear principles and her outstanding work. That’s not a random or impulsive act, it was intentional and deliberate. He knew what he was doing. I’ve yet to come across a mental illness that directs a person to murder someone they consider a political opponent in cold blood. Furthermore, to use the term “mental illness” so casually and to present it as the single reason for what he did risks adding another layer of stigma and social prejudice, potentially, for those with mental illness. Yet another prejudice.

For those of you who don’t think that the far Right, including groups like Britain First, encourage hatred and violence, well I have had some direct experience of it. Last year shortly before the General Election, a malicious meme about me was designed and circulated by Tommy Robinson, formerly leader of the English Defence League. It was eagerly shared on every Right wing page on every social media platform, by every single Right wing group, from UKIP to Britain First. There were even a few Conservatives that posted it. Robinson claimed that I had dismissed the Rotherham child abuse as a “far Right myth”, which of course is absolutely untrue. I’d basically told him to stop mithering me on Twitter, to go peddle his Right wing myths elsewhere.  He had been aggressive and rude.  I never mentioned Rotherham or child abuse to him during any of the exchange.

He used my account details and photo to direct people to “tell her what you think of her.” I had death threats, rape threats and threats of murder from combat 18. I had to involve the police. In my teens, under the Thatcher government, I was part of the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism movements. On peaceful demonstrations, the National Front  turned up and I had my head kicked in and stitched up more than once by size 20 male boots, just because I was there. Are all of these people “mentally ill”, or is it truer to say that the far Right are motivated by fear, anger and hatred, intolerant of anyone who doesn’t agree with their misanthropy, or their petty, mean and grubby prejudices?

I think it’s the latter. My article cites psychosocial studies of the growth of prejudice and outlines the terrible consequences of that. I cited, as I often do,  Gordon Allport’s “The Growth of Prejudice,” for example. I asked for people in our society to pause, and take a good look at what is going down, because of the perpetuation of prejudice, and the politics of division, of social outgrouping, of a culture of us and politically constructed others.

In an interview following the brutal murder of MP Jo Cox, her bereaved husband, Brendan, has said that Jo was “very worried” about the political culture in the UK.

He said: “I think she was very worried the language was coarsening, that people were being driven to take more extreme positions, that people didn’t work with each other as individuals.

On issues it was all much too tribal and unthinking.”

He said that Jo was “particularly worried about the direction of politics, around creating division and playing on people’s worst fears rather than their best instincts.”

The Times reports that Jo was preparing a report on the dangers of far-right nationalism when she was murdered, which she had planned to publish on June 29.

Nationalist Jack Buckby, press officer of “Liberty” GB, ex-member of the BNP, launched a despicable political point scoring and smearing campaign against the Labour Party. He offered an endorsement of violence by suggesting it’s somehow justified, and issued something of a threat as a consequence of Labour’s continued commitment to diversity and equality. Buckby wants to see a candidate put forward from this far Right group (himself) in Jo Cox’s community, when all other parties have stated they will not contest the by-election out of respect for Jo. He said:

“The Labour Party has blood on its hands. And by shutting down debate and labeling working class people concerned about their communities as racists, they risk driving desperate, disenfranchised people to further horrendous acts like this.”

“Concerned about their communities” is a euphemism for hate, racism, violence and murder, then. Deeply divisive, despicably Machiavellian politics.

Even more despicable and utterly inappropriate is this post, which my friend and fellow writer, Steve Topple, screengrabbed:

libertyGBJoCox-


Brendan Cox said of his wife: 

“She was a politician and she had very strong political views and I believe she was killed because of those views. I think she died because of them, and she would want to stand up for those in death as much as she did in life. 

I don’t want people ascribing views to her that she didn’t have, but I certainly want to continue to fight for the legacy and for the politics and views that she espousedThey were what she was. She died for them, and we definitely want to make sure we continue to fight for them.” 

British and American imperialists employed the language of social Darwinism to promote and justify Anglo-Saxon expansion and domination of other peoples. Such different personalities as Machiavelli, Sir Francis Bacon, Ludwig Gumplowicz, Adolf Hitler, and Benito Mussolini, each reasoning on different grounds, nevertheless arrived at similar conclusions. Imperialism to them is part of the natural struggle for survival. Those endowed with “superior” qualities are “destined” to rule all others. Imperialism has been morally excused as the means of liberating peoples from tyrannical rule or of bringing them the benefits of a “superior” way of life. Imperialism is all about human aggressiveness and greed, the search for security, drive for power and prestige and particularly nationalist emotions, amongst other things.

Nationalism is anti-progressive. It’s a paradigm of competitive individualism that further undermines principles of cooperation, equality and social cohesion. It’s also a recognisable symptom of the rise of fascism. The UKIP brand of Parish pump politics nurtures fear, spite and vilifies people on the basis of one of our most wonderful assets: our human diversity.

Related

Support Hope Not Hate.

Donate to the Jo Cox memorial fund.


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Brexit, dirty campaigning, the TTIP and a case for Remain

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“We cannot be content with the state of the EU as it stands. But that does not mean walking away, but staying to fight together for a better Europe.”  Jeremy Corbyn, Statement to The Guardian, 28 July 2015.

Despite his reservations, and a desire to see progressive reform within the European Union, Mr Corbyn strongly supports the Remain campaign. He has been very clear about his views, and he has presented powerful arguments to support his position. He says:

“I have seen first-hand jobs, investment, workers’ rights and environmental protection that being part of the EU helps secure for working people. That’s why, despite its faults, I believe it’s best we vote to stay and work with our friends to make the changes Europe needs.”

It was therefore something of a surprise to see the Leave campaign use a quote with such malicious intent from Mr Corbyn, that was so outdated and out of context, to deliberately mislead people into thinking that the Labour leader supports Brexit.

This post was sponsored on Facebook, and came up more than once in my feed: Stand with Jeremy Corbyn.  

The site is promoted by Matthew Elliot, the founder and former Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance and Big Brother Watch. He also acted as Campaign Director for the successful NOtoAV campaign in the 2011 Alternative Vote referendum. He is the Founder and was the Chief Executive of Business for Britain, and is now the Chief Executive of the Vote Leave Campaign Committee, having founded and been the chief executive of the main Vote Leave.

Elliott also founded the Politics and Economics Research Trust (PERT) in 2004. Labour MP and former Shadow Minister for Europe, Emma Reynolds, raised significant questions about the affairs of the TPA and PERT, she wrote to the Charity Commission and said that “PERT may be in breach of charities legally binding commitments to preserve their independence, specifically regarding political activity and the delivery of charitable objectives.”

Of £532,000 PERT paid out in grants in 2014, £300,000 went to the TPA and £205,000 to Business for Britain, both of which are Eurosceptic. £10,000 went to Global Britain, which has campaigned for Brexit. Charitable trusts are not allowed to be used for political purposes under British charity law.

There were some pretty grubby tricks employed during November 2015, when the group established a fake company in order to gain entry to a speech being given by the Prime Minister at the Confederation of British Industry where they heckled him and held banners stating “CBI = voice of Brussels.” Dominic Cummings, campaign director of Leave, subsequently stated:

“You think it is nasty? You ain’t seen nothing yet. These guys have failed the country, they are going to be under the magnifying glass. Tough shit … It is going to be tough”.

The campaign group also stated their intention to target and disrupt meetings of pro-EU organisations and companies. In a letter to the Electoral Commission, Eric Pickles, the former Conservative cabinet minister, said he believed Vote Leave had disqualified itself from lead status in the referendum (which entitles the campaign to public funding) after it pledged to run a “nasty” campaign against opponents.

The European referendum, some have argued, is more important than any general election, because it will potentially change Britain’s relationship with Europe and the rest of the world. There’s a lot of grand and quaint imperialist talk from the Leave camp about power, sovereignty and Britain’s “place in the world.” But it’s a clever sales pitch, nonetheless, as it harnesses the public restiveness, which reflects a broader disquiet with social democracy in the UK. 

I have to agree with Michael Sandel’s comment, in his excellent interview in today’s New Stateman with Jason Crowley: “A big part of the debate has been about economics – jobs and trade and prosperity – but my hunch is that voters will decide less on economics than on culture and ­questions of identity and belonging.”

The Right have always been strongly inclined towards socioeconomic outgrouping, creating categories of others, using stigma and scapegoating techniques to formulate justification narratives for policy that is purposefully designed to impose gross social inequalities. This alienates already marginalised groups, fragments social identities, and of course, breaks social solidarity. It’s therefore no surprise that immigration and othering have been the focus of a substantial part of the Brexit campaign.

He goes on to say: “Social democracy is in desperate need of reinvigoration, because it has over the past several decades lost its moral and civic energy and purpose. It’s become a largely managerial and technocratic orientation to politics. It’s lost its ability to inspire working people, and its vision, its moral and civic vision, has faltered. So for two generations after the Second World War, social democracy did have an animating vision, which was to create and to deepen and to articulate welfare states, and to moderate and provide a counterbalance to the power of unfettered market capitalism.

“This was the raison d’être of social democracy, and it was connected to a larger purpose, which was to empower those who were not at the top of the class system, to empower working people and ordinary men and women, and also to nurture a sense of solidarity and an understanding of citizenship that enabled the entire society to say we are all in this together. But over the past, well, three or four decades, this sense of purpose has been lost, and I think it begins with the Ronald Reagan/Margaret Thatcher era.”   

Yes, the transatlantic neoliberal turn. The commentary throughout the article is coherent and compelling, and well worth the read.

Leaving the EU would mean the UK giving up its place and influence in Europe, turning back the clock and retreating from the established global power networks of the 21st century. It would also legitimize the Conservatives’ crusade against what remains of a political settlement based on an inclusive, multicultural democracy. Without a level of international scrutiny and legal safeguards, I believe that this Conservative governments’ already evident authoritarian inclinations would be held under rather less constraint. 

The Labour Party, except for a small handful of eurosceptics, is now firmly pro-Europe  – we are, after all, internationalists – despite the fact that leader Jeremy Corbyn has in the past questioned whether the EU structure delivers more for business than it does workers. The Scottish National Party, most of the Liberal Democrats, Green Party and Welsh nationalists Plaid Cmyru are firmly placed with the ‘In’ camp. 

Jeremy Corbyn has said that David Cameron must not have a carte blanche to negotiate away workers’ rights as part of his desired EU reform package, ahead of the in-out referendum. However, Corbyn knows for sure that workers’ rights will not be stronger if the UK ends up outside the EU. 

It was the New Labour Government who ended the Tories’ opt-out on EU social policy (the “social chapter” as it was then called) back in 1998. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) have also staunchly defended workers’ rights in the EU over the last two decades. Now Cameron is aiming to undermine such positive EU employment laws in the UK, as the Tories successfully did back in the 1990s with an across-the-board opt-out. This said, Cameron’s “re-negotiation” has been pretty quickly sidelined. 

A Labour government could easily opt back into any areas that the Tories did succeed in opting-out of, as long as the UK is still an EU member state. The real attack on workers’ rights would inevitably happen if the UK left the EU. Then it would be straightforward for the Tory government to repeal other directives protecting workers’ rights. And they would – obligations to implement EU laws would cease, and so leaving the EU would reduce rather than help workers’ rights. And joining the EU again in the future would be very difficult – it would require a new referendum and fresh negotiations with Brussels, at the very least.

One final point. Some on the Left have said that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a reason for them to vote to leave the EU.  I can understand this, because the TTIP will lead to a large-scale transfer of democratic power to multinationals. It is a blueprint for deregulation and privatisation. 

The Left Leave group argue that the deal promotes the privatisation of the NHS, and that leaving the EU would mean avoiding TTIP and hence save Britain’s free healthcare system. However, TTIP would still have a strong influence on the UK economy. Once outside the EU, the UK would be unable to stop the TTIP, or shape it. TTIP would create a transatlantic marketspace that would influence British firms and the UK economy by aligning regulation in the US and EU.  

Britain would need to stop trading with both the EU and the US to escape the TTIP’s regulations. The EU, like the US, would most likely remain an important trading partner for the UK in the event of a success for the Brexit campaign. Brexit is premised on extreme free trade agreements coupled with looser regulation to make us more “competitive.” 

The TTIP deal was supposed to be signed by now – but together, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group and Europe’s people have seriously stalled things. Would it really be possible to stop such a move if we couldn’t link up with campaigners across Europe? If being in the EU has brought us TTIP, it has also brought us the means to stop it. Labour MEPs fought hard to secure support within the EU to get the toxic Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause removed from the TTIP at the negotiating table last year. 

This was an excellent achievement by our own Labour MEPs within the broader S&D group. The ISDS contradicts principles of democratic accountability and would potentially allow one government to bind another for decades to come. Unlike the great majority of other treaties, investment treaties have very long minimum lifespans ranging up to 30 years. 

Much debate has arisen concerning the impact of controversial ISDS on the capacity of governments to implement reforms and legislative and policy programs related to public health, environmental protection, labour and human rights. 

In the UK, we already have a highly corporatised Government. We have witnessed scandalous price-rigging, and massive job losses, decreased standards in service delivery and a disempowerment of our Unions. This is because the Tories will always swing policy towards profiting private companies and not towards meeting public needs, as we know. 

In Britain, privatisation was primarily driven by Tory neoliberal ideological motives, to “roll back the frontiers of the State.” 

This Conservative government has done everything possible to push the most extreme version of TTIP, just as they’ve fought against pretty much every financial regulation, from bankers bonuses to a financial transaction tax. Cameron has his own programme of stripping away laws that direct big business towards reasonable behaviours and standards, no matter how important those laws are for safeguarding people and our environment.

 —

Related

Three excellent articles: –

EU debate: what are the real choices? – Red Pepper

The energy of the Brexiteers and Trump is born of the failure of elites Michael Sandel / Jason Cowley

#BREXIT ANTI-IMMIGRATION ARGUMENT CONTINUES WAR AGAINST POOR – Rupert Dreyfus/Consented

 


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Job vacancies fall as fears over potential Brexit brings uncertainty to the labour market

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New figures published yesterday reveal a 7.3% drop in the number of advertised job vacancies in the UK since the start of the year, as experts warn fears that the UK may leave the European Union are fueling job market uncertainty.

One of the biggest uncertainties surrounding “Brexit” is the fact that such an exit has never been done before, so no one really knows what the exact fallout will be. This is in addition to major concerns that the impact of a Brexit would be profound and irreversible, and would lead to a significantly diminished international role for the UK.

There has been a marked drop in advertised vacancies since the start of the year, and warnings that discussions about the UK leaving the European Union is fuelling job market uncertainty. 

“Hiring habits are changing, it’s a sign of potential instability and employers are retaining their best workers for longer,” says Doug Monro, co-founder of Adzuna.

According to Adzunda’s latest Job Market Report, jobseekers are facing fewer options in 2016, as falling vacancies and rising competition impact upon work prospects. This contradicts the Department for Work and Pensions statement that:

“Official figures show that job vacancies are at an all-time high, with a record 31.4 million people in work and the unemployment rate now at a 10-year low.”

The Job Market report summarises that:

  • ‘New year, new job’ phenomenon fails to take off, as employer hiring drops off amid bosses’ successful long term focus on retaining and upskilling existing employees
  • January sees number of advertised vacancies fall 7.3% to 1,079,711, declining for the second consecutive month as jobseekers find themselves with fewer choices
  • Competition for jobs hots up, rising to 0.61 applicants per vacancy from 0.54 in December, as Northern cities Sunderland and Hull see toughest competition
  • Manufacturing, Finance, Energy, Media and Retail sectors see cuts in January, resulting in thousands of job losses across the UK’s core industries
  • Advertised salaries, meanwhile, show a glimmer of hope, rising 0.8% month-on-month to reach £33,593 in January, with Northern Ireland and Wales leading the recovery
  • French the top foreign language for new hires in the UK jobs market despite Brexit fears, with 8,401 current vacancies looking for French linguistic skills.

Monro comments: “January’s jobs market has failed to take flight. The normal rhythm of hiring hasn’t happened – vacancy levels are down and job competition is getting tougher. Fewer options for those looking for new jobs is putting pressure on career plans. Hiring habits are changing in a sign of potential instability and employers are retaining their best workers for longer.”

He goes on to say:

 “A potential Brexit brings new unknowns into the jobs market. Politicians are at risk of fuelling uncertainty fears – and only increasing doubts. By doing so they’re risking a weaker jobs market. It’s a dangerous game to play – thousands of employers and employees are already on edge. This lack of consensus is causing understandable concern for many companies. Business expansions and hiring sprees are being put on hold as a result. EU languages are still in high demand throughout the UK and whichever road the referendum takes us down, this is sure to remain so.”

“Languages have always been vital to the international ambitions of companies. But now they’re becoming even more lucrative to have as a jobseeker. A French speaker, or German speaker in a company can make all the difference and open up new business channels and deals. In the interconnected world, learning a second language is a fantastic way to differentiate yourself from other applicants and claim a higher salary. It’s hard work to learn a foreign tongue, but employers are willing to pay more for it – so it’s a skill worth pursuing. For industries such as IT, which is growing its international reach, and for healthcare, which is dealing with more diverse patients than ever, having another language may soon become a necessity.”

January saw a total of 1,079,711 job vacancies advertised in the UK, down 7.3% from 1,164,502 in December – in the largest monthly drop since 2012. Advertised job vacancies have now fallen 13.7% since November, when 165,000 more jobs were on the market (1,244,772). A long-term focus on upskilling existing employees and prioritising retention means companies can now sidestep the search for fresh talent, filling positions in-house rather than looking elsewhere.

Widespread job losses across a range of UK sectors mean several industry key players are no longer in a position to take on new hires. Energy giant BP cut 7,000 jobs earlier this month, alongside the loss of over 2,500 manufacturing roles by Tata and Bombardier. Lloyds and Virgin Media similarly saw large job losses of 1,755 and 900 employees respectively. The Retail and Manufacturing sectors have seen large vacancy falls in the wake of job losses in January. Current vacancies in the Manufacturing sector stand at 14,022 – down 9% from 15,466 roles last month. Similarly, the Retail sector saw vacant positions fall 13% to 32,143, from 36,881 in December.

Jobseekers with language skills are managing to buck the downward vacancy trend however, as demand for multilingual workers has risen.

There are currently over 35,000 job vacancies for applicants with linguistic skills and with an average advertised salary of £36,026 for bilingual positions across the UK.

French is the most popular language with employers, with 8,401 available positions currently asking for proficiency. This is closely followed by German (7,820 vacancies), Spanish (4,267) and Italian (3,856).

There is a rare consensus amongst UK economists: they overwhelmingly believe that leaving the EU is bad for the country’s economic prospects. In the Financial Times’s annual poll of more than 100 leading thinkers, not one thought a vote for Brexit would enhance UK growth in 2016.

A recent Government report has also warned that it could take more than 10 years to set up new trade details and negotiate Brexit, and car manufacturing, farming, financial services and the lives of millions of Britons would be impacted negatively. Bosses at more than a third of the UK’s biggest businesses have also signed a letter supporting the campaign to remain in the European Union. Chairmen and chief executives at 36 FTSE 100 companies – including BT, Marks & Spencer, Kingfisher and Vodafone – warned a Brexit would “deter investment and threaten jobs.” The 36 are among the names of 200 business leaders, representing 1.2 million employees, to put their names to the letter.

The heads of six British companies owned by German car giant BMW, including  Mini and Rolls-Royce have told British workers that exit from the European Union could drive up costs and have an impact on its workforce. A letter was sent to 8,000 Rolls-Royce employees, including workers in Goodwood, West Sussex, and Oxford. A report produced this week warned that the car industry would be badly hit by Brexit.

It outlines how more than half of MINIs and most of the British-made engines and components are exported to the EU. Also, it described how Brexit would hit hard the way Rolls Royce brings in cars and spare parts from the continent.

“Tariff barriers would mean higher costs and higher prices and we cannot assume that the UK would be granted free trade with Europe from outside the EU.

“Our employment base could also be affected, with skilled men and women from most EU countries included in the 30 nationalities currently represented at the home of Rolls-Royce here at Goodwood,” the letter said.

Nearly 1,000 projects at 78 UK universities and research centres are dependent on funds from the European Research Council (ERC). The UK has more ERC-funded projects than any other country, accounting for 22% of all ERC-funded projects – more than 25 recipient countries put together. The collaborations that have made the UK such an important player are dependent on the free movement of scientists into the UK. About 15% of academic staff at UK institutions are non-UK EU nationals, a figure that rises to 20% among elite universities.

You can read the full Job Market Report here