Friday 19 May 2023


 I save the articles I read that seem to me to matter. Here's an edited selection of stories from my newspapers and online social media. 

Thanks to COSMONAUT for this image

They all signal the misgovernment we are suffering. 

Which way do you favour? What are we going to do about this crisis of democracy?

Patrick Strudwick was on good form in the 'i' on Monday 20 March this Year in making the case that there have been three great lies that have shaped Britain in the 21st century:

  • In early 2003, Tony Blair colluded in the propaganda of George W. Bush that suggested Iraq was connected to 9/11 in 2001 (it wasn't), that they had weapons of mass destruction (they didn't), and most infamously of all, that Iraq could send such a weapon in 45 minutes (they couldn't). The invasion of Iraq followed, despite one million protestors taking to the streets of London. Iraqi political stability was smashed to pieces - and still is. International terrorism was given another boost. More innocent lives, in time, would be lost to suicide bombers here in Manchester and London. 

London - February 2003 - 1.5 million people demonstrate against declaring war on Iraq (Image taken by Guy Calton of The Observer)

  • The fact that Blair had got away with ignoring what most people wanted emboldened David Cameron and George Osborne when they took office in 2010. Austerity became the second great lie of modern times. They insisted that there was no other way out of the mess that Labour had left but to slash public spending. The facts were otherwise. The Labour prime-minister, Gordon Brown, had responded with insight and rigour when confronted with the global financial crisis of 2008/9. He had stopped a collapse of the banks by using £37 billion of state money to prop up British banks that would otherwise have failed. He brought other world leaders together to act in similar ways to save their national economies. Cameron and Osborne lied on taking office. The financial crisis was not due to public spending being too high. A nation's economy works differently from a household economy. The same rules don't apply. We needed huge infrastructure projects to create jobs and housing. What we got was money being taken from the poor, the sick, the disabled, women's refuges, and children's support centres.
  • In the words of Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize economist: 'Every country that introduced significant austerity has seen its economy suffer, with the depth of the suffering closely related to the harshness of the austerity'. Britain and its people are still suffering from that austerity mindset. Sunak and Hunt seem intent on following similar 'small state' policies. We continue to live out the consequences of an economic lie.

Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (2010-2015) when his chum, Cameron, was the prime-minister. 

  • Those who suffered from austerity directly and others too had begun to feel that Britain had become a nation where the 'little people' were not listened to. Politicians did not care. the stage was set for the third big lie that centred on Brexit. Leaving the EU would be a good thing. We would all be better off. Boris Johnson had spotted the way to fulfil his ambition to become PM and follow in the footsteps of his Etonian and Oxford chum/rival, David Cameron. Johnson used the Brexit bandwagon and the alienation of those already wounded by austerity to build up a personal following that was to take him to No.10 and then win an election victory over Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party in 2019. 
  • These three great British lies came at the worst time for truth and trust: the advent of the internet. As Patrick Strudwick argues, these three lies have bred a climate where conspiracy theories now abound. Some refused to believe in the value of Covid vaccines or even the reality of the pandemic when it struck in 2020. Beware ambitious, mendacious politicians.   

Kenan Malik shed light on some dark corners of our State in 'The Observer' on 26 March 2023 when he argued that from the cradle to the grave, there is something rotten in the state of welfare:

  • Nursery funding has been cut by 13% in real terms since 2017.
  • Parents on benefits will be forced back into work now that new rules mean those on universal credit can be docked benefits if they are not available for work up to 30 hours a week once their youngest child turns three; or if they don't meet a job coach every three months once their child turns one; and monthly when the child is two.
  • The childcare may seem to be free but the lives of the poorest in the land are being controlled by the state - that's the price being paid. Decent childcare should not be reduced to forcing parents into work. This is atrocious. The welfare state has ceased to exist on this evidence. 
  • Welfare is being used as a punitive measure by the rich and powerful. The culture of sanctions in the world of benefits does not work - there is now considerable evidence to show that truth. Instead such sanctions sustain a 'flexible' labour market of low-paid, part-time jobs that entrenches poverty and inequality. 
  • The government's plans to raise the the state pension age from 66 to 68 after 2044 (!) have been shelved. Why? One powerful reason is that life expectancy figures in the UK have fallen by between one and two years for both men and women. The pandemic has played a part but the roots of the problem are deeper. Coming out of the Second World War, Britons were among the most long-lived peoples in the world - 10th in global rankings in 1950; 8th in 1960. By 2020, we were 36th - only the USA has fallen further.
  • There were two periods of particularly sharp falls - the first was in the 1980s when Thatcherism ensured the greatest rise in inequality in the postwar period; the second was in the 2010s, the decade of austerity.
  • Britain today hardly qualifies as a welfare state in the sense that it once did. Now 'welfare' policies are framed by the insistence on rationalising resources and coercing the poor - and not on a desire to allow people to live more flourishing lives. There is, from cradle to grave, something rotten in the state of welfare.

Thanks to Chris Riddell and The Observer for this brilliant cartoon 

Robert Palmer of Tax Justice UK reported on 4 May:

  • Shell had made a £7.6 billion profit for the first three months of the year; BP had made £4 billion in the same period. 
  • It was not just the fossil fuel companies posting huge profits - the top 350 companies in the UK have doubled their profit margins since 2019, research from Unite the Union found.
  • At the same time as many companies are using the cover of inflation to push their prices up beyond their increased costs - 'greedflation' - inequalities are being pushed into hyperdrive by the cost of living crisis.
  • Tax Justice UK has developed six wealth tax policies that could raise £50 billion for the people of our nation - here's a link to the blogpost where these are outlined - press here

Old Mike, writing in The Cornishman on Thursday 11 May:

  • The truth of the coronation crackdown will probably never emerge. It would have been communicated by a private word, a look or a wink to a senior police officer: "We can rely on you, can't we, to see that no one messes this up?" A nod to reassure that, however loud the public outcry, no disciplinary consequences would occur; a commendation of the brand-new laws allowing "suspicion-less stop and search"; a reminder that our precious civil rights extend exactly as far as they can be tolerated and no further, as all serious activists know. 
  • The royals own everything, have precedence over everyone, and every part of the service was designed to show it ... Theirs is the kingdom, the power and the money, for ever and ever, or as long as people stand for it. 

Worth a read - Republic is a movement worth joining - 5,000 members (including me) before the Coronation - 9,000 members now, and rising



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