Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Jonathan Freedland's latest Guardian opinion piece is a trashfire of awful journalism

Jonathan Freedland's opinion piece about the assassination of the Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is a smug, astonishingly self-defeating, and downright offensive effort to piggyback a pro-mainstream media narrative onto a tragedy.

Daphne Caruana Galizia was a brave and principled journalist who never shied away from criticising poweful elites like the Maltese mafia, the political establishment, and the billionaires stashing their ill-gotten gains in tax havens like Panama.

In his article Freedland crudely attempts to equate the assassination of an anti-establishment investigation journalist with general criticism of the mainstream media, as if criticising the inherent biases of pro-establishment mainstream hacks like Laura Kuenssberg (who was allowed to keep her job at the "impartial" BBC despite being caught red-handed faking an anti-Corbyn story) is akin to blowing someone up in a car bomb.

One of the most irritating things about Freedland's opportunistic capitalisation on a tragedy is that his diatribe includes a classic example of lazy and biased churnalism that gives the mainstream press such a bad name.

Here's Freedland using the fact that Laura Kuenssberg took a bodyguard to the Labour conference to attack the Labour left.

And here's his fellow Guardian columnist John Harris using the exact same trope in his  excruciatingly poor attempt to throw distrust on independent media a few weeks previously, the Labour left, and ... well ... anyone who doesn't rote learn their political opinions from mainstream media churnalists like him and his Guardian stablemates.

If Harris is to be believed that this trope barely needed restating two weeks ago, why on earth is his Guardian stablemate Jonathan Freeland still lazily regurgitating it now?

We've all seen the endless reliance on lazily churnalised tropes like the Kuenssberg bodyguard (did you know she also took a bodyguard to the Tory conference too?) and the Angela Eagle brick from last year (no evidence was ever provided that the brick was lobbed by a Corbynite, but that didn't stop the endless mainstream fearmongering about the terrifying spectre of "the brick-lobbing Corbynites").

It's this kind of lazy seeding of ludicrously biased political tropes into articles that are ostensibly about the important subject of press freedom that differentiates the likes of Jonathan Freedland from real journalists like Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Caruana Galizia was an independent-thinking investigative journalist who was never afraid to speak her own mind, even under a barrage of death threats.

Freedland is a lazy, smug and self-righteous churnalist who blares the same groupthink drivel as his well-to-do and largely privately educated mainstream media peers, one who even gratuitously piggybacks this kind of worthless tripe onto the death of a legitimate journalist.

Freedland's article is as offensive as it is lazy.

It's downright offensive to capitalise on the assassination of a real journalist who tirelessly worked to hold powerful establishment elitists to account in order to piously condemn ordinary people who are sick to the back teeth of the kind of lazy pro-establishment churnalism peddled by Freedland, Kuenssberg and their ilk.

Unfortunately a lot of mindless media grazers will actually overlook the opportunism and disgusting sanctimony of Freedland's opinion piece, and conclude that yes, ordinary people criticising the pro-establishment bias and complicity of swathes of the UK mainstream media are pretty much the same as those who actually killed an anti-establishment investigative journalist with a car bomb.

Opinion peddlers like Freedland honestly seem to believe that they're the righteous gatekeepers of public discourse; They're furious at the rise of independent media; They're furious that the Labour left has saved the Labour Party rather that leading it to the doom and destruction they prophesied; And now Freedland has proven that his ilk are even willing to use the worst kind of contrived emotionally manipulative shtick to criticise independent media and the Labour left. Even if it means opportunistically smearing themselves with the recently spilled blood of a proper journalist, one that lazy opinion-peddling hacks like him were never even fit to lick the boots of.

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Labour have a 6 point poll lead according to the most competent polling company

Survation were one of the only polling companies to predict the 2017 General Election result with any degree of accuracy, and they've just released a poll giving Labour a 6 point lead over the Tories (44% - 38%).

Of course all poll results should be taken with a bucket of salt, but since Survation did such a good job of calling the 2017 election, this one is at least worth a bit of consideration.

Such a significant poll lead for Labour is obviously good news for anyone who opposes the Tory government, their economically ruinous obsession with hard-right austerity dogma, their callous contempt for people they consider to be below them in the social pecking order (especially disabled people, students from non-privileged backgrounds, trainee nurses, and the working poor), and their ideological obsession with flogging off, or simply giving away public infrastructure to corporate interests, dodgy unaccountable pseudo-charities, and foreign governments.

The electoral calculus website suggests that a 44% - 38% general election result would mean Labour end up as the biggest party, just a few seats short of an overall majority (321), with the Tories losing somewhere in the region of 54 seats in the process. The Tory losses would include big hitters like the Home Secretary Amber Rudd, the former Tory leadership candidate Stephen Crabb, the former education secretary (who wanted to force privatise every state school in England) Nicky Morgan, and David Cameron's barbaric former DWP henchman Iain Duncan Smith.

Nobody with a shred of basic human empathy for disabled people, or those who have fallen on hard times, could possibly shed a tear over Iain Duncan Smith's ejection from parliament, but the problem is that the Tories have clearly demonstrated their intent to put their own party political interest above the national interest, so an election is highly unlikely to happen any time soon.

One Tory minister, speaking to the Times on condition of anonymity, demonstrated the sickening scale of Tory self interest when they admitted that if they tried to reverse Theresa May's shambolic handling of the Brexit negotiations they would "destroy the party", but if they allow her to continue marching us towards the Brexit cliff edge they would "destroy the country" .

Given the willingness of Tory politicians to sacrifice the nation in order to serve the interests of their own political party, the prospects of another General Election any time soon seem remarkably slim because they'll just cling grimly to power, no matter what the cost to the rest of us.

On the plus side, this 6 point Labour lead suggests that although the Labour surge has slowed since the election furore has died down, there's no sign whatever of any kind of public opinion swing back towards the hapless Tories.

Another positive to consider is that Labour went into the 2017 General Election trailing the Tories by double digits (some polling companies put them as far as 24/25 points behind!) but they ended up just two points behind (42% - 40%), which was the biggest and fastest UK election turnaround since opinion polling became a thing.

If the next election (whenever it comes) plays out anything like the last one, Labour's momentum (fuelled by a huge membership of 600,000 odd people, and a seasoned social media campaign team) could conceivably turn a six point lead into a double digit one, which would win a clear Labour majority for Jeremy Corbyn to work with.

Another factor is the influence that such brazenly self-serving display of Tory power-clinging will have on the public mood. The longer the Tories insist on maintaining  Theresa May as their hapless and incompetent political bullet shield of a leader in order to cling onto power at the national expense, the more pissed off people are going to get with them.

Of course the right-wing press and the majority of the mainstream media won't frame the situation like this (as it is), so it's up to the rest of us to make it clear that the directionless and divided Tories are only clinging onto power because they care more about the fortunes of their own political party, than about the fortunes of the nation as a whole.

The Tories are hanging onto a rising political balloon. They know that if they let go any time soon, they're likely to break their political legs in the fall, but they also know that if they hang on much longer, their fall will become politically unsurvivable.

The bigger the Labour poll leads get, the more likely the Tories are to cling selfishly to the limited power they have, and the more voters are going to turn their backs on such brazen self-serving Tory opportunism, meaning a bigger defeat when they finally do let go. 

They're in a horrible political predicament, and after seven long years of watching them ideologically vandalise the economy, lie with impunity (thanks to the complicity and collusion of their chums in the mainstream media), brazenly gamble national stability for short-term party political advantage, flog off the national silver to their mates, and treat the lives of our most vulnerable citizens with callous contempt, this political trainwreck really couldn't be happening to a more deserving bunch.

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Don't imagine the Tories dropped their rip-off DWP charges out of the goodness of their hearts

The Tories have announced that they 're now planning to scrap their policy of charging 55p a minute for people to phone the Universal Credit hotline, and all of their other rip off DWP hotline charges.

Don't make any mistake. They're not scrapping their vindictive policy of wringing cash out of some of the poorest people in society out of the goodness of their hearts. They're doing it because they got caught, and in Jeremy Corbyn Labour have a leader who is prepared to ignore what the right-wing tabloids might say about him, and hold the Tories to account for their malice.

It's absolutely no coincidence that DWP helplines are being made free just one week after Corbyn roasted Theresa May about the rip-off charges in parliament. This Tory U-turn has only happened because Britain has an effective opposition that is holding the government to account and forcing them into one U-turn after another.

Corbyn's predecessor Ed Miliband wasn't actually such a bad guy, but unlike Corbyn he didn't have the courage of his convictions, and surrounded himself with economic right-wingers like Ed Balls and Chris Leslie.

Not only did Miliband squander the 2015 General Election by adopting Ed Balls' ridiculously uninspiring "austerity-lite" narrative when outright opposition to ruinous and failing Tory austerity dogma was required, he also allowed other Labour right-wingers to mimic the Tories in order to pander to the right-wing press.

One of the most notorious examples came when Miliband's shadow DWP minister Rachael Reeves vowed that Labour would be tougher on benefits claimants than the Tories (as if systematically abusing disabled people, using unemployed workers as sources of free labour to distribute to their corporate mates, slashing in-work benefits for the working poor, and their draconian sanctions regime weren't harsh enough already)!

Just imagine if the right-wing of the Labour Party had succeeded in their numerous plots and schemes to oust Jeremy Corbyn from the Labour leadership. 

Their desperation to appeal to the editors of the right-wing propaganda rags would have prevented them from ever being seen to side with social security claimants, so the pressure over these ludicrously unfair DWP hotline charges would never have been applied, Theresa May wouldn't have been forced into performing another screeching U-turn, and the Tories would have continued wringing money out of poor people forced to righ the DWP over stuff like the unacceptable delays in their Universal Credit payments.

The difference with Corbyn is that he doesn't give a damn if mercenary hacks at right-wing propaganda rags like the S*n, Daily Mail, Express and Telegraph are going to attack him for standing up for the millions of working and non-working people on social security. Corbyn can see that charging people 55p a minute to deal with DWP errors in the Universal Credit system is just wrong, so he stood up and said it was wrong, and as a result forced the Tories into changing direction.

Of course the right-wing tabloid hacks are going to hate him for it. Of course people who have been conditioned to despise all social security claimants (whether they're working, not working, or physically unable to work) will hate him for it. But when Ed Miliband's pro-austerity anti-welfare incarnation of the Labour Party fumbled the golden opportunity that was the 2015 General Election, they proved that Labour simply can't win elections by crudely aping the Tory party in the hope of appealing to the kind of people who are never going to support Labour anyway.

You don't hold the powerful to account by meekly imitating their policies in the hope that you get a go at being in power next. You hold them to account by identifying their malice, incompetence and greed then haranguing them over it until they're forced to change direction, then eventually after the public have seen the powerful forced into either defending the indefensible, or U-turning for the umpteenth time, they get sick and tired of it and vote for a government with some actual principles.

This latest screeching U-turn from Theresa May is proof that Jeremy Corbyn is doing an increasingly effective job of holding the Tories to account, and what Labour (and the other opposition parties) need to do now is to continue to actively oppose this absolute shambles of a Tory government, especially when their policies are unfair, incompetent, or downright vindictive. 

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Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The 15 year peerage proposal is an absolute farce

Instead of putting forward proposals to democratise the bloated unelected House of Lords, a Westminster political committee is proposing a "fix" that would make the anti-democratic nature of the House of Lords even worse than it is already.

The way it works now is that (aside from 26 unelected bishops and 92 mainly Tory hereditary peers) all of the members of the House of Lords have been undemocratically appointed by the Prime Minister of the day.

What the House of Lords Committee is suggesting is that instead of the Prime Minister of the day having the power to appoint peers for life, they should appoint them to time-limited peerages of no longer than 15 years.

Several Prime Ministers over the years have abused their positions by stuffing the House of Lords with their own cronies and yes men. But between 2010 and 2016 David Cameron took Lords-stuffing to a new extreme, adding more new unelected peers per year than any other Prime Minister in history, including life-long peerages for over a dozen mega-rich Tory donors who had pumped £millions into Tory party coffers before their ennoblements.

Thanks to David Cameron's stuffing of the Lords it's now swelled to over 800 members, making it the second largest legislative assembly in the world (behind the Chinese parliament).

Instead of putting forward proposals to reduce the size of the House of Lords, and democratise it in an innovative way that preserves the undoubted expertise of many of the members, the Westminster establishment club are pushing a "fix" that would make the anti-democratic nature of the House of Lords even worse.

Just imagine if peerages had been limited to 15 years for the last few decades. Imagine what the composition of the House of Lords would have ended up looking like after the 18 year Tory rule between 1979-1997. Every single sitting peer would have been hand-picked by either Margaret Thatcher or John Major! It would have ended up as nothing more than a glorified, and ridiculously over-paid rubber-stamping club.

Imagine the composition of the House of Lords after the 13 year New Labour rule from 1997-2010. After an initial period of the Tory dominated Lords cynically blocking absolutely everything the Labour government tried to achieve, after 10 years and beyond the majority of the Tory peerages from the previous regime would have expired, leaving a House of Lords almost exclusively handpicked by either Tony Blair or Gordon Brown. Another glorified rubber-stamping club.

Now consider the current political situation had the 15 year rule been in force. After seven and a half years of Tory rule the balance of the House of Lords would be rapidly swinging back to the Tories, just at a time when the country most needs the upper chamber to hold the shambolic, divided and increasingly authoritarian minority Tory government to account.

The introduction of a 15 year limitation on peerages that continue to be unelected is exactly the kind of ill-conceived and profoundly anti-democratic "fix" you'd expect from a Westminster establishment club who are absolutely desperate to avoid and kind of genuine democratisation or modernisation of the political system they've reaped the personal benefits of for decades.

The Westminster elitists still want the House of Lords to be stuffed full of hand-picked political yes men like themselves, but they now want them appointed with an automatic expiry date so that they can be weeded out before they get too old to soften their party political allegiances, to be replaced regularly with new crops of up-to-date yes men who are fully on message about the current government's agenda.

The new 15 year rule will obviously only be applied to newly appointed members of the House of Lords, because if it's applied retroactively, 10 of the 13 unelected peers to have cobbled together this proposal would have to resign immediately having already served way beyond 15 years, and two others who were appointed in 2004 would have to retire within two years, leaving just one of them in the job!

Yes, these establishment insiders, most of whom have sat in the unelected House of Lords for over two decades (Lord Strathclyde has been there since 1985!) are proposing a new set of rules to prevent younger generations from milking the system in the way they have themselves, but they have no intention of resigning their own positions to comply with the rules they're planning to force onto others.

The hypocrisy of these unelected establishment insiders is astounding, but unsurprising. They want to keep their own unelected privileges, but restrict the unelected privileges of future generations in order to keep them as subservient to the Westminster elitist club as possible, whilst vehemently opposing the concepts of democratisation and modernisation of the anti-democratic system that has rewarded them with decades of unelected power and influence.

The anti-democratic House of Lords is bad enough as it is, but the idea of automatically weeding future unelected peers out in order to turn the upper house into a glorified rubber-stamping club is somehow even worse than just leaving it in the mess it's in!

The bloated and anti-democratic state of the unelected House of Lords is actually an ideal opportunity to develop a completely new innovative kind of elected upper legislative chamber that is fit for the 21st Century. However, leaving the job of reform to the unelected Lords themselves is absolutely futile because, as is always the case, the Westminster establishment club would obviously prefer to just use the current mess to rig the system even more to their own advantage, rather than proposing any kind of genuinely progressive or democratic reform to their beloved system.

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Spain is taking political prisoners while allowing convicted fraudsters to walk free

A lot of people tend to get very angry when you point out that the Spanish political establishment is rapidly descending towards right-wing tyranny.

"But the vote was illegal" they say to excuse the shocking wave of brutal police repression against non-violent Catalan citizens that the whole world witnessed on October 1st. "But they don't represent all Spanish nationalists" they say about the Franco-worshipping fascist-saluting Falangists thugs who are gleefully celebrating the violent repression of Catalonia. "But everyone knows he's a nasty piece of work" they say about the Spanish government minister who wasn't even sacked for issuing a veiled death threat against the Catalan President Carles Puigdemont ...

And now they have something else to make excuses for. The Spanish establishment has resorted to taking Catalan civic leaders as political prisoners.

Jordi Sanchez, the leader of the ANC movement, and Jordi Cuixart, who heads the Ómnium Cultural association have been arrested and are being held without bail on possible charges of sedition because of their involvement in a spontaneous political protest on September 20th.

Jailing non-violent citizens without trial is obviously bad enough in its own right, but then if you look at some of the criminals from the Spanish political establishment who have been let off for massive corruption and fraud scandals, the shocking bias of the Spanish legal establishment becomes absolutely clear.

Rodrigo Rato (a former finance minister for the ruling Partido Popular) was found guilty of embezzlement from the Spanish bank Bankia, but was released on a technicality instead of serving a single day of his four year jail sentence.

Iñaki Urdangarín (the Spanish king's brother-in-law) was found guilty of tax fraud and corruption in Mallorca, but was released on a technicality instead of serving any of his six year jail sentence.

The Spanish nationalist establishment have got a proven track record of refusing to jail their own, even when they've actually been found guilty of incredible levels of corruption, fraud, and embezzlement. But when it comes to Catalan secessionists, they lock them up and throw away the key before there's even been a proper investigation, let alone a trial!

The crazy thing is that supporters of Spanish nationalism will immediately begin making excuses for the taking of political prisoners. They'll claim "it's for the good of Spain", and spread Orwellian propaganda about what a wonderful liberal place Spain is (while they're simultaneously excusing imprisonment without trial!). They'll turn a blind eye to the double standard that allows the convicted fraudsters Rato and Urdangarín to walk free, while Catalan civic leaders who haven't been found guilty of anything are locked up.

The big problem with this Spanish nationalist attitude is that it's massively counter-productive.

Their refusal to condemn the images we all saw of Spanish police brutalising pensioners, stealing ballot boxes, wading into unarmed and non-violent crowds with batons, and dragging women around by their hair; their blind acceptance of the belligerent escalations by the Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the king of Spain; their excuse-making over the taking of political prisoners ...

These people don't even seem to realise that all of this violence,oppression and Spanish nationalist rhetoric has the appearance of a Francoist resurgence, and their blind support for it terrifies people who remember the same kind of blind support that millions of Spanish nationalists gave to the savage Franco dictatorship until his death in 1975.

If people are unwilling to condemn the wave of police brutality against non-violent citizens, Spanish government ministers making death threats (and not even getting sacked for it), and the taking of political prisoners, how far will they actually go in their appeasement? 

Would anything actually be too much for them? 

Would they still be making excuses and attempting to glorify Spain as a wonderful "liberal democracy" if the government in Madrid scrapped the democratically elected Catalan parliament? If the Spanish political establishment abolished free speech to make talking of Catalan independence a crime? If they sent the army in to occupy Barcelona? If they reintroduced Francoist concentration camps to punish political thought crime?

As far as I'm concerned, they've already gone way too far if they're making excuses for the state violence and political repression that's already happening.

If they can watch a video clip of a Spanish police officer violently dragging a woman around by her hair and believe that "she deserved it" because she was trying to vote in a referendum they didn't want to happen ... or if they're prepared to actively celebrate imprisonment without trial for Catalan civic leaders while establishment fraudsters like Rato and Urdangarín still walk free, then they'll likely find an excuse for pretty much anything the Spanish ruling elite do.

But what is worse, from a pragmatic perspective, is the sheer self-defeating idiocy of it. Every step the Spanish political establishment takes towards the resurrection of the Franco dictatorship is another step towards the eventual secession of Catalonia.

When the king of Spain refuses to condemn the violent oppression of his own people, when the Prime Minister of Spain refuses to discipline his own government minister for making death threats against the elected Catalan President, and when the corrupt Spanish establishment turn Catalan civic leaders into high-profile political prisoners while allowing convicted fraudsters from their own class to walk free, they're not dampening Catalan secessionism, they're wilfully pouring fuel on the fire.

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Monday, 16 October 2017

John Redwood is spewing delusional Brexiteer gibberish again

The Tory MP and Brexit fanatic John Redwood has written a ludicrous article for The S*n in which he outlines his argument that Theresa May should address her spectacularly failing Brexit negotiations by escalating her threats to do an extreme "no deal" strop away from the negotiating table.

In this article I'm going to critique Redwood's article line by line to demonstrate how billionaire propaganda barons like Rupert Murdoch are providing fanatical Brexiteers like Redwood public platforms to peddle an absolute crock of misrepresentations, contradictions, shallow nationalist rhetoric, and outright lies in order to make incredibly reckless brinkmanship look like a good idea.


"Next week there is a big European Council meeting which is likely to tell the UK they are not willing to talk about trade without us paying a shedload of money that we don’t owe."
The idea that we don't owe anything to the EU is pure fantasy. Just take the example of all the pensions of the British MEPs and civil servants who have worked for the EU over the last four decades. Of course the UK should cover the cost of these pensions, and all of the other financial obligations the country signed up to, otherwise who on earth would ever sign a trade deal or treaty with the UK again in the knowledge that the British government has a track record of reneging on their financial commitments whenever it suits them?
"Theresa May can and should turn the tables on the unhelpful EU at next week’s meeting. She can tell them the UK is preparing to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, with no deal."
Theresa May has been spewing her reckless "no deal is better than a bad deal" rhetoric for months, but it doesn't work. The EU27 are unified and they're not going to budge because her "no deal" threats are completely delusional. It's like threatening your neighbours that you'll burn down your own house in the hope that they suffer some disruption and smoke damage.
"She can say this will mean we will trade with them all on World Trade Organisation terms. That will be just fine for the UK. It’s how we do our trade with the rest of the world today."
This is an outright lie. The UK does the vast majority of its trade with the rest of the world through treaties negotiated though our membership of the EU. A "no deal" cliff edge Brexit would mean Britain doesn't just end up outside the Single Market and Customs Union, but also outside every single trade deal we've entered with the rest of the world over the last four decades too.
"Just leaving brings us lots of advantages. It means we don’t have to pay them another penny once we are out."
You'd have to be as mad as a bucket of frogs to imagine that the few £billion in net savings from no longer paying our (significantly rebated) EU membership fee is not going to be absolutely dwarfed by the costs of economic meltdown that would be triggered by a ruinous "no deal" strop away from the negotiations.
"We don’t owe them anything beyond our contributions up to the date we go."
As I pointed out before, we do owe them for the cost of stuff like the pensions of British EU employees, the costs of ongoing infrastructure projects the UK has signed up to, and a range of other things. Just saying we don't owe it, isn't the same as not owing it.
"We can spend that money on our ­priorities. It means we can get rid of VAT on things which the EU makes us charge, where we disagree. That includes insulation, better boiler controls and other energy-saving ­measures, and female hygiene products."
Another hazy promise from a Brexiter that isn't worth the (toilet) paper it's written on. Even if we believe the absurd fantasy that leaping off the "no deal" Brexit cliff edge would result in a net economic gain for the UK, who on earth would be naive enough to imagine that a Tory government would spend it on stuff like environmental measures and alleviating period poverty, rather than distributing it to their £billionaire backers in tax cuts for corporations and the mega-rich?
"It means we can decide how many people to welcome into our country."
In 2010 Theresa May (who was Home Secretary at the time) promised to reduce net migration to below 100,000. What she actually did was oversee the biggest migration inflow in UK history peaking at 336,000 in 2015. Even if the UK commits a massive act of economic self-harm by banning all migration from the EU, the rate of non-EU migration is still well over 100,000, and quitting the EU won't have any effect whatever on that.
"We can police our borders as we wish, to make the country safer." 
This claim is a sick joke from a member of the ruling party who let the Manchester bomber come back through the UK border from hanging out with his terrorist mates in Libya and Syria, then didn't even bother to keep him under surveillance despite numerous warnings from the Manchester Muslim community and a tip-off from the US intelligence services that he was actively planning a terrorist attack against the EU. 
Additionally, a "no deal" Brexit would mean the UK bailing out of all of the policing, security and intelligence sharing agreements with the EU, which would obviously make the UK an awful lot less safe.
"It means we can pass the laws we want."
The Tories are currently using Brexit as an excuse to launch an audacious anti-democratic power grab that would allow them to rewrite thousands of existing laws with no parliamentary scrutiny. There's a huge difference between the kind of stuff that Tory politicians might want to write into UK law without any democratic scrutiny, and what "we" the British public, would actually want.
"We can amend and improve the EU laws we are inheriting. It means we do not have to accept any more EU ­regulations unless we like them."
You'd have to have a significant level of contempt for the concept of parliamentary democracy to believe that the process of "amending" and "improving" the EU laws we've signed up to over the years should be done in secret by Tory ministers with no democratic scrutiny whatever.
"The problem for the EU states is they export a lot of food to us." 
That the UK has a vast trade deficit with the EU is not a problem for the EU, it's a problem for us.
"Food is the only area under World Trade Organisation rules where tariffs are high, designed to keep out imports. Danish bacon, French dairy products, Dutch flowers and vegetables, Irish beef will all be subject to tax penalties if they go for a no trade deal. It is ­massively in the EU’s interest to keep their tariff-free access to the UK. They sell us much more than we sell them across the board."

This summer I have been making sure I can buy non-EU food and drink at my local supermarket. 
The English tomatoes and vegetables have been good so I didn’t need the Dutch ones. English, Australian and New Zealand wines are great, so no need to buy French or Spanish. Scottish beef and English lamb are tasty, UK dairy products fine and English fruit touches the right parts. When Europe is in winter we can buy from the southern hemisphere or from our farmers’ heated greenhouses."
An estimated 70% of the UK's food imports come from EU countries, and the vast majority of the rest comes from countries with which the UK has trade deals that have been negotiated through the EU. A ruinous "no deal" Brexit would mean new or increased tariffs on 97% of the food we import.  
The idea that trade with the rest of the world wouldn't be disrupted by tearing up all of our EU negotiated trade agreements is utterly delusional, and you'd have to be a total idiot to be placated by a fluffy personal anecdote about how John bloody Redwood has been "buying British at the supermarket"!
"Some say we could not do this. After all, it will be our customers who have to pay the higher prices of EU food with tariffs on while we wait for UK farmers to increase their output to serve more of our needs."
Just like his fellow Brexit fantasist Chris Grayling, Redwood completely fails to explain how UK farmers are going to dramatically increase their output when Brexit drives away the EU seasonal migrant workers that the British agricultural sector relies on so heavily. Who is going to do the backbreaking agricultural work? Pensioners? Disabled people? unpaid Workfare slaves?
"They don’t understand the cards in our hands as the EU’s main customer."
Back to the shit Brexiteer poker analogies. 
Everyone in the world can see that Theresa May has got a handful of duff cards and she's resorted to bluffing. There's no other way to explain her lunatic "give us what we want or we'll blow up a massive economic bomb under ourselves in the hope that you get injured by the shockwaves" approach to the negotiations. 
"The Government will be able to give us all a tax cut out of the tariff ­revenue it collects, so we need not be worse off."
Ah ha ha ha. We'll all have to pay the cost of tariffs on our supermarket shopping, and we're to trust the Tories to redistribute that wealth back to us, rather than distribute it to their billionaire backers in tax cuts for corporations and the mega-rich. 
If you believe that, you'll believe anything! 
"We can also cut the tariffs we have to impose on food from outside the EU to balance things up a bit. Why should we put a tariff on South African oranges to help the Spanish industry when we grow none for ­ourselves?"
This is just delusional. We'll have to put WTO tariffs on produce from all over the world because we'll be bailing out of all of our trade agreements if we do a "no deal" tantrum. Maybe we could sign up to new low-tariff trade agreements with minor trade partners like South Africa eventually, but there are several things to consider.  
1. Trade deals take years to negotiate, and we don't have anything like the civil service capacity to negotiate scores of replacement trade deals all at once, so the WTO tariffs on non-EU produce will be in effect for years, if not decades. 
2. Countries like South Africa will understand that we need trade deals with them an awful lot more than they need trade deals with us. They will be in the driving seat with the power to demand all kinds of favours and concessions from our massively over-stretched, inexperienced, and time-pressurised negotiators.
3. If we do a "no deal" strop, why would anyone want to sign trade deals with us anyway? If you witnessed someone rip off their business partner by unilaterally abandoning the deal they had together, would you rush to sign a business deal with them, or would you keep well away?
"Your shopping basket may change a bit but there is no need to worry. Our farmers will boost their output."
Again. How? How do they boost their output when Brexit has chased away a huge chunk of their labour force?
"The EU negotiators do not seem concerned about the damage they could do to EU exporters. Their overwhelming concern is losing all that cash we pay them each year."
Outright lies. The EU have outlined their three main concerns over and again: Protection of the rights of EU citizens in the UK, a resolution to the Irish border problem, and a financial settlement to cover the UK's ongoing commitments. 
Until these three issues are resolved they're not going to get into trade talks over how much the UK might pay for preferential access to the Single Market. Everyone knows this. David Davis agreed to this sequencing of events in June.
"They have jeopardised an agreement about a good trading relationship in the future to try to wring more money out of the UK after we have left."
No. The agreement over future trading relationships comes after the rights of EU citizens and the Irish border situation are resolved. The ones who are guilty of jeopardising the future trading relationship are the Tories for trying to use the rights of EU citizens as bargaining chips, and failing to make any meaningful progress on the Irish border problem.
"The PM needs to remind them we owe them nothing under the law and their treaty. Why would we pay extra when there is no benefit for us?"
In one paragraph he's accusing the EU of jeopardising the future trading relationship, and in the very next he's demanding that the PM lies to the EU negotiators about the UK not having an obligation to honour the costs of the laws and treaties we signed up to. as if they'll just say "yes, abandon your financial obligations, here have a trade deal that's better than the deal that we give to actual members of our club".
"When we entered the EU — then the EEC — for the first time we inherited a lot of payments the others had agreed to without us. No one said we did not have to pay for things agreed before we got there. So why does anyone think we need to go on paying for things after we leave?"
This is a nonsense argument. It doesn't even make sense. If you sign up to a club, you abide by the membership rules, whether you're a founder member of the club or not. If during your membership you sign up to agreements to cover the cost of certain things, then you can't just quit and refuse to pay what you'd agreed to. Otherwise you end up massively pissing everyone off, and making yourself look like a fundamentally dishonest and unreliable chancer who doesn't stick to their word. 
"The EU is not planning on paying us anything after March 2019, so they save what they used to give us back from the money we send them."
Such backwards logic! Why would the EU pay the UK anything? The UK is causing disruption by quitting the EU, not the other way around. 
"Out of the EU we will end the ­uncertainty." 
A "no deal" strop out of the EU would cause massive uncertainty for millions of workers, businesses, investors, and government agencies. Dressing such a drastic move up as "ending the uncertainty" is a stunning example of "black is white" Orwellian propaganda.
"We will be able to sign trade treaties with countries elsewhere in the world, which we cannot do as a member of the EU."
Yes. But this process will obviously take a lot of time, and the UK's reputation as reliable trading partners would be absolutely devastated by a "no deal" flounce away from our trade agreements with Europe over a refusal to cover the cost of ongoing commitments.
"We will get our fishing grounds back and put in a fishing policy that works for us."
The fishing industry accounts for a tiny fraction of the UK economy, but the subject is a reliable touch-stone for Brexit fanatics, so it's no surprise to see Redwood randomly lobbing it into his article. 
It would take a spectacular amount of optimism to think that a Tory government that is massively over-stretched by their own Brexit mess would somehow make a better job of regulating the UK fishing industry than the status quo
What's actually highly likely to happen is that the Tories will use access to UK fishing territories as a bargaining chip in order to win favours for the UK financial services industry (over half of Tory party donations come from the financial sector, virtually none come from fishermen or fleet owners).
"If Theresa May sounds positive about no deal, she greatly increases the ­chances that they will want to offer a trade deal for their own sakes."
Even if we're delusional enough to accept the idea that Theresa May suddenly sounding more positive about the insane "no deal is better than a bad deal" threat she's been making since January will cause the EU27 negotiation team to suddenly fold and give the UK a wonderful deal, this completely contradicts Redwood's previous attempts to argue that "no deal" is a great idea in its own right.
Which is it? Is "no deal" a ludicrous and futile we're holding the gun to our own heads so do as we say threat, or is it actually Redwood's preferred endgame? He is trying to have it both ways in the same damned article!
"If she accepts the advice of the Treasury and looks worried about leaving without a deal, she should expect a larger bill and more delay in settling anything."
You'd have to be a unbelievably reckless and sociopathic ideologue to have no worries about the social and economic destruction a "no deal" strop would wreak on the UK, or about the extreme damage to the UK's reputation as a reliable trading partner. 
Additionally we've already established that the delays are stemming from the Tory refusal/inability to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK, and resolve the Irish border problem, not from the EU.
"The best few hundred millions the Treasury will spend this year and next is the money to ensure we are fine without a deal."
The idea that the estimated £250 million the Tories are spending on planning for a "no deal" strop away from the Brexit negotiations would be enough to mitigate even the tiniest fraction of the social and economic fallout of such a reckless act of national self-harm is utterly delusional. 
"That will save us billions that some want us to give to the EU to end up with something like the single market bureaucracy we voted to leave."
A "no deal" tantrum wouldn't "save us billions", it would plunge the economy into chaos and trash what remains of our national reputation.  
Additionally, it's an outright lie to say that "we voted to leave" the Single Market because the Single Market wasn't even mentioned in the referendum question, in fact a load of high profile Brexiters like Nigel Farage, Daniel Hannan, Owen Paterson and Arron Banks argued that we should stay in the Single Market after we quit the EU during the referendum debate.
"It is also money well spent if we do get a deal, because we still need ­borders and customs that work."
This is an utterly bizarre conclusion. We should waste hundreds of millions planning for a "no deal" tantrum in the vain hope that openly planning to try and screw the EU over by exploding an economic bomb under ourselves will cause them to suddenly offer us a wonderful deal!
If we spend our money buying a big gun so we can point it at our own heads, Redwood is arguing, they'll back down because they won't want to get blood splatters on their clothes!


Essentially what John Redwood seems to be arguing (in a shockingly dishonest manner) is that Theresa May should "turn the tables" on the EU by ... errm ... doubling down on her delusional policy of making the reckless threat to do a "no deal" strop the centrepiece of her spectacularly failing negotiating strategy. 

The incredible thing isn't that the propaganda baron Rupert Murdoch provides a platform to fanatical ideologues like John Redwood to promote this kind of delusional and downright dishonest Brexiteer rhetoric, it's that anyone ever took this kind of fanatical hard-right Brexiteer idiocy seriously in the first place.

As a result we're now in the extraordinary situation where the 27 remaining members of the EU are far more united than the UK governing party, which is catastrophically split. 

Theresa May is being pulled in opposite directions by one bunch of Tories who actually want to negotiate sensibly in order to avoid an economically ruinous "no deal" national meltdown, and other Tories like John Redwood who insist that the best approach to the most complex and risky set of negotiations the UK has faced in decades is to play an increasingly hysterical game of brinkmanship.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


Sunday, 15 October 2017

We could "grow more food" but who is going to do the work?

The Tory transport minister Chris Grayling has come up with a fantastic solution to the "no deal" Brexit chaos the Tories are actively planning to inflict on the UK economy.

A "no deal" Tory Brexit would mean import and export tariffs on a huge range of items, including food products. This wouldn't just mean taxes on food imported from the EU, it would mean taxes on food from all of the countries the EU has negotiated trade deals with too. This is because the UK would not just be crashing out of the Single Market in a "no deal" scenario, the country would also be crashing out of every trade deal the UK has joined through the EU over the last four decades.

The UK imports almost 45% of the food we eat. Nearly 80% of these food imports come from EU states, and the vast majority of the rest comes from countries that Britain has trade deals with that have been negotiated through the EU.

Chris Grayling's glib and simplistic solution to the problem of import tariffs on food products is "we'll grow more food here".

Aside from the fact that it's impossible to grow a lot of products in the British climate that British consumers now take for granted on their supermarket shelves, and the fact that it would cost £billions in investment in stuff like greenhouses, machinery, polytunnels, etc to increase the productivity of the UK agricultural industry so dramatically, there's also the glaring question of who is going to do the work?

Brexit hasn't even happened yet, but 2017 saw a 20% shortfall in seasonal migrant agricultural labour. Once a ruinous Tory "no deal" Brexit is launched, the shortfall is certain to grow dramatically, as migrant workers from the EU would lose their right to free movement, and end up facing a bureaucratic nightmare as the massively over-stretched Tory government try to cobble together a new set of immigration rules overnight.

In order to massively increase domestic agriculture output at the same time as the agricultural sector is suffering a massive labour shortfall because Brexit is chasing away a huge percentage of seasonal migrant workers, someone else would obviously have to do the work.

So where are the Tories going to find the labour supply to do all of this agricultural work?

Here are a few ideas based on previous Tory policies and proposals by Tory MPs:

One obvious source of agricultural workers would be to force jobless people to go out picking fruit and vegetables in return for no wages (instead of retraining or searching for actual paid employment). The Tories have demonstrated time and again that they believe that the state has the right to confiscate the labour of the individual through their use of numerous exploitative and economically damaging "Workfare" forced labour schemes.

Another solution would be to run with the Tory MP Philip Davies' proposal that disabled people don't deserve to be paid the minimum wage. Of course a workforce of severely sick and disabled people on wages of just a few quid an hour is hardly likely to be the most efficient workforce in the world, what with their physical limitations, their reluctance to work hard for below minimum wage pay, and their increased likelihood of falling ill or dying on the job, but there are millions of sick and disabled people for whom the Tory government have displayed absolute contempt (with their arbitrary disability welfare cuts, their cuts to statutory sick pay, their confiscation of mobility vehicles, their deliberated discrimination against people with mental health conditions, and their dehumanising disability denial factories). Who cares if sick and disabled people would make an inefficient workforce who keep dying on the job? It's not hard to imagine certain Tory ministers seeing the appalling death toll as a cost benefit because more dead disabled people would mean fewer mouths to feed on Brexit Britain's dramatically diminished food supplies.

Another solution would be work with the proposal made by the unelected peer Michael Bichard that pensioners should be forced to work for their pensions in order to avoid being "a negative burden on society". Of course herding elderly people into the fields to do back-breaking agricultural work would have the same problems of inefficiency and a very high labour force death rate, but there would be some element of poetic justice given that the economic chaos of a "no deal" Tory Brexit would have been enabled by millions of pensioners flocking to the polling stations to give the hard-right fringe of the Tory party the green light to just make Brexit up as they go along.

You wouldn't put it beyond the most cruel and compassionless Tories like Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling, Philip Davies and Priti Patel to force sick, disabled, and elderly people to do backbreaking agricultural labour for little pay, or no wages at all, but in all seriousness, the most likely supply of agricultural labour will come from the wave of unemployment triggered by the "no deal" Brexit meltdown.

"No deal" would mean chaos and mass redundancies in a wide range of industries, especially in the manufacturing, tourism, aviation, the financial sector, and the export/import industries. And without the right to freedom of movement, looking for jobs in the same industries elsewhere in Europe would be out of the question. So Chris Grayling's "no deal" Brexit dream is for Britain do downgrade and deskill down to a more rudimentary agrarian economy, with former pilots, travel agents, production line managers, financial analysts, logistics experts, and the like sent out into the fields to pick cauliflowers for crap pay so that the country doesn't starve.

Still, Brexiteer Tory politicians and the mercenary hacks shilling for hard-right billionaire propaganda barons like Jonathan Harmsworth, Richard Desmond, the Barclay brothers and Rupert Murdoch will still keep pushing as hard as they can for their fantasy of a nuclear "no deal" Brexit, because there's no way they're going to be the ones who are going to end up living in huts 
in the back end of nowhere and doing backbreaking cabbage-picking work for the glory of Brexit Britain is there

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.