Saturday, 18 April 2015

“If It’s Not About Love, Well… It’s Not About Anything”

Not Satire

A Massive Shift of Power

Mark Dearn writes:

From Pakistan to the Philippines, Fiji to Hawaii, and all across Britain, people are taking to the streets today to fight the “free trade” deals threatening the foundations of democratic government.

In Britain, this burgeoning movement is coalescing around the secretive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

TTIP is one of a number of deals which together seek to achieve completion of the “world market”: a world dictated to by corporations and their political handmaidens.

Although nominally a free trade deal, in reality TTIP ushers in a massive shift of power to transnational capital.

This will lead to job losses, the privatisation of our public services (and the blocking of any attempts at renationalisation), the erosion of social, health and environmental protections and the eradication of equality before the law through a system of corporate courts for suing states.

The European Commission (EC) is negotiating the deal on behalf of all 28 EU national governments. It is propagating a series of myths in its attempt to secure TTIP.

The British government is matching it step for step, repeatedly articulating bogus claims of growth, jobs and more money in every family’s pocket.

Both have been forced onto the defensive.

TTIP was first announced in 2013 by Barack Obama.

Since then, assertive campaigning by trade unions, grassroots activists and a small clutch of NGOs — aided by a series of leaks of key texts — has dismantled the shallow propaganda shrouding the deal.

The framing of TTIP as a free trade deal is false.

Tariffs between the EU and USA do not apply on 70 per cent of traded goods. Average tariffs are around 3 per cent.

TTIP is not about trade at the border, it is about reaching behind the border to adjust the standards that have been crafted to protect our labour rights, food safety, our health and the functioning of the economy.

On growth, we are told that TTIP will make us all wealthier. In the words of Tory Party chairman Grant Shapps, “free trade is magic.”

More magical are the assertions of the largely discredited economic model repeatedly relied on to conjure growth projections which even neoliberal economists dismiss as “mere opinion.”

Just this week, German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel said he doesn’t believe these “wondrous calculations.”

His words echo Ken Clarke’s admission in a private meeting with NGOs that TTIP’s growth claims are “not credible.”

Yet, if you write a letter to your MP, the likely response you will receive is that TTIP will make you better off. The Lib Dems think Britain will be £10 billion a year better off.

On jobs, we are told that TTIP will save the day.

Yet dig in to the depths of the flawed studies commissioned by TTIP’s advocates, and it becomes clear that TTIP will cost at least 600,000 jobs across the EU.

No wonder all British trade unions are opposed to the deal.

On standards and regulations, we are told that TTIP will set a “new global standard.”

Yet TTIP’s deregulation agenda, which lies at the core of the deal, seeks to “harmonise” wildly divergent standards, which in corporate parlance represent “barriers to profit.”

Take, for example, the stricter US regulations on derivatives trading and bank size, which the European Commission (EC), cheered on by Britain, wants removed; the 1,377 ingredients banned in cosmetics in the EU against the 11 banned in the US; the rampant non-medicinal use in the US of antibiotics to promote the growth of cattle, a key factor in the global health crisis of antibiotic resistance and the 82 pesticide ingredients banned in the EU but allowed in the US, variously linked to cancer, birth defects and negative impacts on childhood development.

The US approach favours business through prioritising the costs it faces from regulation above the benefits to society.

Consequently, no chemical has been banned in the US since 1991 and there is no ban at all on asbestos.

At the outset, TTIP was written by big business.

The EC engaged in 119 secret meetings with big business ahead of TTIP’s announcement. It then placed a 30-year ban on public access to key documents.

The prominence of the interests of capital over people was made abundantly clear.

After being chided by EC ombudsman Emily O’Reilly in January, the EC began to release some negotiating texts, but didn’t adhere to the demand to publish a full list of all public and non-public documents and the consolidated texts that will form the final treaty.

But we have already learned enough to demonstrate the pre-eminence of business interests in TTIP.

A “regulatory co-operation council” will take an agenda-setting role within the EU’s processes for drafting regulations.

The “stakeholders” with close access to this council will be primarily formed of big business interests.

Business will have an “early warning” of regulations before they see the light of day.

As the European Consumer Organisation BEUC states, this will create a “surreal form of institutionalised lobbying.”

The huge increase in investor rights through a parallel corporate court system known as “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) is perhaps the most controversial element of TTIP, so much so that to allay mass public outcry talks on ISDS have been temporarily suspended.

It is via ISDS that Slovakia has been sued for renationalising its healthcare.

It is how Egypt has been sued by Veolia for the costs of an increased minimum wage and how Canada has faced repeated litigation for everything from passing moratoriums against fracking to revoking patents for drugs with unproven benefits.

To fight against this power grab by transnational capital, a group of #NoTTIP campaigners launched a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), the sole channel of democratic accountability available to ordinary people within the EU’s structures.

For such an initiative to be successful, one million supportive signatures must be recorded in the space of a year while meeting a national quota in at least seven EU member states.

The EC blocked the initiative before it started.

According to the bureaucrats of Brussels, EU citizens have no right to challenge an ongoing trade deal — they can only approve.

So campaigners launched a self-organised ECI regardless, and within the record time of just two months had passed the one million signature mark.

National quotas were rapidly passed in seven countries: Germany, Britain, France, Austria, Finland, Luxembourg, and Slovenia.

The total number of signatures now stands at over 1.65 million, with national quotas met in 12 countries.

We are also appealing against the European Commission’s rejection of the initiative before the European Court of Justice.

Parallel to this, people across Europe are coming out to turn their people power into political power — to withdraw their consent where it was never sought.

We are fighting to retain some control over the fundamentals of our own lives: what we eat, whether corporations can control and profit from our education, healthcare and the commons, our working conditions and the ability of democratic government to enact social, health and environmental legislation without the sanction of litigation in corporate courts.

We have defeated such corporate agreements before, and we will do so again.

But to win will require the growing #NoTTIP movement to maintain its momentum — and that means the public coming together to say no to the domination of our lives by the interests of transnational capital.

Join the #NoTTIP campaign, and help us win this fight.

But In Its Soul

Rod Liddle writes:

Missing from my column this week, for reasons of space etc, was this simple point: I am a Socialist. I am not a liberal. Liberalism, or what it has become, makes me heave; I loathe it.

More often than not, liberalism is economic self-interest cloaked in faux concern. I do not mean the economic liberalism of Margaret Thatcher (although I’m not keen on that either. Her foreign policies, yes. Her domestic agenda, no.)

I mean the totalitarian political correctness and acquired victimhood of the London pretend-left. Yes, that idiotic Thornberry woman and Harman and maybe Ed Miliband included. But that doesn’t quite negate Labour as a party for me.

I think societies work better when there is a greater degree of equality (and yes, the last Labour government did not offer much redress on that point).

I think we are happier as a country and a people when there is a communitarian spirit and ethos – which is one of the reasons I loathe the creed of multiculturalism.

Shared values and a shared pride in our heritage. A respect for work and for the financial benefits that hard work brings. A belief in virtue for virtue’s sake.

I accept all the stuff you might throw at me which suggests that the current Labour Party is a long way from that mindset. I have a lot of sympathy for those who intend to vote Ukip – I’m not far from that position myself – and even for those who vote Tory in order to stop Miliband – who I believe is inept and in a sense the epitome of what I dislike about the modern Labour Party – getting in.

But in its soul, I think the Labour Party is closer to what I want for my country than any of the other parties. I’m not sure I’m right about that. It’s just a hunch.

For a more detailed run down of roughly where I stand, if you give a monkey’s, please check out this book on Blue Labour.

Meanwhile, I apologise to those who I might have offended by stating my voting intentions.

And if you believe that last line.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

UKIP Unhitched

Anyone who was still waiting for Peter Hitchens to urge a UKIP vote at this General Election needs to consider that that party has just accepted £1.3 million from Richard Desmond.

Hitchens will either reprise his "don't vote, it only encourages them" routine, or he will say to vote Labour in order to poke Dvid Cameron and the Blairite media in the eye.

The Nonnes Preestes Tale

Baldrick: My father was a nun.
Blackadder: No, he wasn't.
Baldrick: Yes, he was. Whenever he was up in court, the magistrate would say "Occupation?", and he would reply, "Nun."

From memory, I admit.

Far from having won, the ageing, dying, dissident American nuns have been told, by a Pope of their own generation and who is a Jesuit, to go back to what they were doing in the 1950s.

They are reduced to pretending that that has been what they have always wanted to do.

If a dwindling band of women in their seventies and upwards, with the perfectly preserved 1960s attitudes and outfits to match, really were the Church's frontline, then the Church would be finished.

But it is not, so She is not.

Beyond a very bald Deism, if that, at least 50 per cent of them do not believe one word of the Creed.

Therefore, the only explanation for the Holy Father's indulgence of them is that no one cares what they think. It is not what they are for. They can now expect their every effusion to be greeted in like manner.

Practically all of them seem to want to be priests, which, while of course it will always be impossible, is nevertheless an irritant. Or it would be, if anyone were paying any attention.

Certain congregations seem never to have existed as anything other than places to put women who thought that they ought to be priests. Ought the Church to have such things at all?

The LCWR lot agrees with Hillary Clinton about everything. Every last one of them intends to vote for her. Many of them will campaign for her. They are difficult to distinguish from her by age or by style of dress.

For a robust critique of neoliberal economics and of its neoconservative wars, you need the uncompromising doctrinal orthodoxy against which they define themselves.

Be Careful What You Wish For

The Making of Hillary Clinton

Part One.

Part Two.

Part Three.

The Lib Dems at home, Hillary Clinton abroad: the dislocation of The Guardian, The Observer and the New Statesman from a Left and a Labour Movement to which they were only ever tenuously connected is rapidly approaching completion.

Yes, the Scott Trust means that The Guardian and The Observer can never go bust. But who would want to write for newspapers that nobody read? In what cause? In the cause of the Lib Dems at home, and of Hillary Clinton abroad? Hardly!

You Know It Makes Sense

Rod Liddle writes:

Quite often when I deliver myself of an opinion to a friend or colleague, the reply will come back: ‘Are you out of your mind? I think that is sectionable under the Mental Health Act.’

In fact, I get that kind of reaction rather more often than, ‘Oh, what a wise and sensible idea, Rod, I commend your acuity.’

There is nothing I say, however, which provokes such fervid and splenetic derision, and the subsequent arrival of pacifying nurses, as when I tell people that I intend to vote Labour at the forthcoming general election.

When I tell people that, they look at me the way my dog does when I tell her that it is not right to kill cats. It is something quite beyond the parameters of understanding, of comprehension.

‘But you hate them,’ people reply, shaking their heads, and up to a point I have to agree. I do hate them, much of them, or much of what they have become.

The proposition appears genuinely certifiable when I add that I do not actually want Labour to win the election, or at least not in the manner which they are most likely to ‘win’ — i.e., in alliance with the hounds of hell from the Lib Dems and the terrifying, ginger, grasping Picts.

In fact, I would rather like Labour to suffer the sort of wipeout in the north of England which the SNP seem well on course to deliver in Scotland (and for similar reasons).

That will not happen at this election, but it will assuredly happen at some election not far down the line, so hopelessly estranged has Labour become from the people it was set up to support.

It is now the party of middle-class London liberals, its enormous lead in the capital compelling evidence of this. [Of what, then, is its enormous lead in the North compelling evidence?]

The decision to vote Labour appears even more doolally when you consider the extent to which I despise much of the party’s mindset and, indeed, its policies.

I do not for a nanosecond believe in the leadership’s — uh — commitment to restraining immigration, which is one of my keystone issues.

It was, of course, Labour which let them all in originally [oh, no, it wasn't, the numbers have increased enormously since 2010] and the party has been weaselly and evasive on what it might do to address the matter.

Yes, I agree with raising the minimum wage and enforcing the matter, but that will not by itself end the deluge, a deluge which has hurt the very poorest in our country and kept wages criminally low.

I loathe Labour’s rainbow identity politics — keep that for London, if you must — and have never thought terribly highly of multiculturalism.

Plenty of northern Labour MPs have disowned this poisonously divisive concept, but the southern leadership clings to it as an article of faith. [What "Southern Leadership"?]

I dislike its reflexive, bovine, political correctness, its willingness to clamber into a redoubt of statism and bureaucracy and hunker down behind the barriers of the NHS.

I do not like its bien-pensant middle-class refusal to distinguish between the deserving poor and the un-deserving poor — a distinction which is certainly clear in the minds of the working-class people I know, and always has been.

Nor indeed its continued affection for education policies which have ruined the lives of two generations of working-class children and are the reason why Labour ministers try like hell to get their kids into private schools [no, they do not, that is only Diane Abbot, who has never been and will never be Minister; I am not aware of any sitting Labour MP with a child currently at a private school] or the most old-fashioned, selective state schools that they can find [again, extremely rare; most Labour MPs make a point of sending their children to school in their constituencies].

And I don’t like the party’s sniffy disdain for Britain, for its traditions and its heritage and its history. [Compared to whom? The enemies of the NHS?]

Oh, and I don’t think too highly of the party leader. I don’t doubt his care and concern. I doubt his connection to the people his party is supposed to represent.

So what’s left, you might well be asking right now. Good question.

Obviously, I want a political party which is economically well to the left and socially conservative. ‘Try Hizb ut-Tahrir, then. Anything but Miliband’s lot,’ you might venture.

Well OK, maybe not quite that socially conservative. I don’t want people stoned to death.

Or at least there are some people I would quite like to see stoned to death, but only when I’m in a drunken rage and Newsnight is on TV. It’s not something I would dignify in policy terms.

You might also hazard that the party for which I intend to vote last existed in about 1951, if at all (although I have plenty of respect and affection for both the Wilson governments and even Jim Callaghan’s brief hurrah) and that I am voting — perhaps tribally — for something which no longer has any relevance today.

There is some truth in that.

And I have been sorely tempted by Ukip — if only because of its opportunistic policies on immigration and its rather laudable refusal to adopt politically correct language.

But there is almost nothing else within Ukip for me, even if the party does have the most likeable of leaders.

The single issue which cleaves me to Labour, even this Labour, is social division.

The gap between the rich and the poor has grown almost exponentially and Labour is the only party with the instinct, or predilection, to address that problem.

And the gap between London and the rest of the country widens by the year too, to the point that we are now effectively two countries: an affluent city-state and a hinterland which, in places, teeters on the edge of the third world.

The smaller the differences between rich and poor, the better a country tends to perform — and I would direct your attention to Scandinavia for evidence of that.

On both of those issues — social and geographical divisions within the UK — I have the faint conviction that Labour is more likely than the others to put things right.

You may reckon this to be a very thinnish premise, but I would still reply: ‘Vote Labour. You know it makes sense.’

Reignite The Battle of Ideas

Tom Slater writes:

As the General Election approaches, as Labour and the Tories jostle for single-digit leads in the polls and discussion is filled with speculation about what nefarious party-political gumbo will result from another hung parliament, little seems certain.

But if one thing is starkly clear, it’s that young people, once conceived of as the motors and muscle of political change, will continue to detach themselves from the entire process.

The figures, as we all know, aren’t good. At the 2010 General Election, only 51 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds cast their vote.

While representing a peak for the decade, following a paltry 38 per cent in 2005, it continued a marked historical decline in youth-voter turnout.

One particularly damning Hansard Society study found that only 12 per cent of under-25s intended to vote on 7 May 2015.

But if there’s anything more dispiriting than peering into the gaping chasm between young people and the party-political process, it’s thumbing through the solutions that commentators, policy wonks and politicians are putting forward.

Youth volunteering charity vInspired has challenged the party leaders to tweet their top-five policies which affect young people. Cos, you know, social media.

Online tools like Vote For Policies, which tell users what party their views are most aligned with via a questionnaire, are being fiercely promoted by youth-voting campaigners in an attempt to trick young people into thinking they’ve supported a political party all along, and just didn’t know it.

Many of those currently concerned about the youth-voting deficit are deeply sincere.

None more so than Rick Edwards, the youth TV dreamboat, who has penned a refreshingly optimistic plea for young people to get out and vote called None of the Above

Talking to Edwards over the phone, he offers me a forthright case for the technical solutions to the current crisis.

He advocates compulsory voting for 18- to 24-year-olds, is insistent on voting going digital in order to cater to the internet generation, and generally feels that more savvy use of social-media would help bring politicians’ message to Britain’s disaffected youth. 

But it’s hard not to feel that these technical fixes ignore the parties’ sheer lack of political vision.

This General Election campaign seems to have been built, not on a clash of ideas, but on a clash of slogans: ‘security’ (Conservatives); ‘fairness’ (Labour); and ‘bit of both’ (Lib Dems).

Rather than present a vision of where society could go, the parties prattle on endlessly about how they can tax a bit here and cut a bit there in order to secure a smidge more of their preferred buzzword.

So, I ask Edwards, isn’t the shocking lack of contention, the fact that the political parties are merely fiddling with their spreadsheets in the middle ground, the real problem here

‘When big ideas and strong ideologies are put forward, it’s quite appealing’, he concedes. ‘The fact that everyone is now in the middle ground certainly doesn’t help, but there are other, technical factors here.’

While on this we may disagree, Edwards’ insistence that young people can’t merely be written off as apathetic or cynical is important.

Talking to first-time voters, it’s clear that while they desperately want to get involved in the political process, they can’t help but bristle at what’s on offer.

‘Labour and the Tories are far too close together’, says Nadia Sayed, an 18-year-old currently studying for her A-levels. ‘They’re two cheeks to the same ass’, she says, adapting George Galloway’s colourful metaphor [but Americanising it  bah!].

Although Nadia is undecided, she’s leaning towards Labour – the lesser evil, she feels, of the two cheeks. And this sentiment seems to cross the so-called political spectrum.

‘I see the Conservatives as the devil I know’, says Amara Willett, another London sixth-former, who is reluctantly backing Cameron.

The fact that the parties are still more or less indecipherable for most young people is something that should give the Labour Party, in particular, pause for thought. Miliband’s pledge to cut tuition fees, introduce votes for 16-year-olds and maintain benefits for under-25s has reflected a concerted effort to court youth voters, just as the Tories’ pledge to maintain the triple-lock on old-age benefits has helped it to tighten its grip on the over-65s (among whom voter turnout is highest).

But this has done little to shake the long-standing perception that neither Labour nor the Tories are really bothered about young people.

Edwards is right when he says that, as politicians have exploited the generational voting gap, so young people have effectively been sidelined.

‘Politicians are going where the votes are, or at least where they think the votes are. And so therefore young people are feeling like they’re being marginalised, because they are’, he says.

And this has, inevitably, spurred on youth disengagement. ‘I think a vicious circle has been spun’, says Eleanor Sharman, a student at Oriel College, Oxford, and editor-in-chief of feisty, alternative student rag, Versa

‘Politicians play to those most likely to vote, who are (perhaps inevitably) the elderly. So young people feel disengaged and don’t bother.’

But while some students still smart over the Lib Dems’ backtrack on tuition fees, or the Tories’ wilful disregard of supposed ‘youth issues’, more generational gerrymandering ultimately only makes matters worse.

In the conversations I’ve had with first-time voters, so-called youth issues are far from a priority.

For Eden Bokrezion, a student at the University of Sussex, and Tom Owolade, a south London 18-year-old on his gap year, immigration is a primary concern.

Meanwhile, Sharman says that social and economic freedom is what has led her (mistakenly, in my opinion) to the Liberal Democrats.

Look beyond the pity-me think-pieces being penned by twentysomethings on Comment is free, and it becomes clear that young people are interested in issues which go beyond their own immediate needs.

The politics of generational conflict is, then, ultimately self-defeating.

The insistence on fracturing political questions into bitesize, ‘relevant to you’ chunks may give you a short-term electoral boost, but it only brings politics further away from the big, juicy ideas that have always got young politicos’ pulses racing.

‘I have much more in common with an 85-year-old free-speech advocate than the typical, censorious SU rep’, says Blair Spowart, a 20-year-old student and free-speech campaigner at the University of Edinburgh.

‘The young are, like every other age bracket, an extremely diverse section of the population. Any politician attempting to relate to “the youth” should be asked what on earth they are trying to relate to.’

The crisis of modern politics is fundamentally a crisis of vision.

No amount of youth-friendly policies or FaceTime hustings sessions will change this fact. But young people can’t expect these big, earth-moving ideas simply to be delivered to them.

They, as with everyone else in society, need to reignite the battle of ideas.

Only then might we see parties and ideas that are worth voting for.

Save The Democratic Party From Clinton

H.A. Goodman writes:

In 2008, Hillary Clinton finished third behind Barack Obama and John Edwards in the Iowa caucus.

However, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll, Democrats before the Iowa caucus believed Clinton had "the best chance of beating a Republican in November," was more "in touch" with Americans and could "get things done in Washington" better than her competition.

In late 2006, CNN stated that Clinton was "twice as popular as her nearest Democratic rivals" and TIME magazine ranked Clinton eighth out of the 100 men and women "whose power, talent, or moral example is transforming our world."

Perhaps the most interesting survey is a 2006 Gallup poll that had Clinton first and Obama 12th (behind former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani [R] and 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry) when Americans were asked, "Who would you most like to see elected president?"

Therefore, Team Hillary's ascent to the Democratic nomination and White House isn't a certainty and challengers like former Gov.Martin O'Malley (D-Md.), former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and (perhaps one day soon) Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) could eventually overtake the former secretary of State.

While Clinton has done great things for America over the years, she's unfortunately become a liability to the Democratic Party.

The citizens of Iowa and New Hampshire and Democrats everywhere can save all of us from a Clinton campaign that says one thing when it's politically expedient, but does another (at the expense of cherished progressive values) when poll numbers aren't behind a certain issue.

After all, Clinton was against same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization until recently.

There's a reason that many feel she has an "authenticity problem," and it's the same reason Clinton differs only slightly on issues like war from her GOP counterparts.

Democrats in Iowa and around the country should evaluate the Clinton campaign by its actions, not words.

Team Hillary recently made "middle class" issues and wealth inequality part of its campaign platform, but Politico had a piece  last year headlined "Wall Street Republicans' dark secret: Hillary Clinton 2016."

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article headlined "Elizabeth Warren Takes Aim at Bill and Hillary Clinton," the Massachusetts senator has been vocal about Clinton's ties to corporations:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren called Wednesday for Democrats to adopt a muscular form of liberalism in a speech that included thinly veiled jabs at Bill and Hillary Clinton as examples of economic stewardship gone wrong.

But her use of Clinton-era policies as a foil was notable, coming as liberals look for an alternative to Mrs. Clinton, whom they view as too friendly to business.

It also marks a challenge to conventional Democratic thinking that Mr. Clinton presided over a boom that stands as a model of economic leadership.

Ms. Warren also made a reference to a part of Mrs. Clinton's past. As first lady of Arkansas, Mrs. Clinton spent six years on the board of directors of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Warren is one of the main reasons even former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has remarked that "the playing field is no longer fair or level" pertaining to the economy (a sentiment that often results in accusations of socialism from conservatives), so her view of Clinton's allegiance to big business should be a warning to most Democrats.

Regarding foreign policy, few people in the country have Jim Webb's resume or understanding of war and national security.

As a Marine company commander in Vietnam, Webb was awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star medal and other medals earned in combat.

Unlike almost every other candidate for 2016, the former Virginia senator has experienced firsthand the reality of war (writing numerous books on the subject) and was an assistant secretary of Defense and secretary of the Navy.

In comparison, The Atlantic notes that Clinton once desired to arm the Syrian rebels:

"The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad — there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle — the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled," Clinton said.

Whereas Webb knows the dangers of entering counterinsurgency wars without an exit strategy, Clinton wanted to fill a "big vacuum" in Syria, even as we failed to fill these power vacuums in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Historically, progressives want less involvement in foreign wars, not more entanglement within civil wars like Syria.

Finally, Martin O’Malley has shown superior leadership skills, compared to Clinton's, during his tenure as Maryland's governor.

As a mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland, O'Malley's leadership led to a No. 1 ranking for his state in schools, entrepreneurship and women-owned businesses.

In contrast, Clinton and the Democratic Party must now deal with "emailgate." According to Dan Metcalfe in his piece in Politico, "Hillary's Email Defense is Laughable":

So yes, Secretary Clinton’s suggestion that federal officials can unilaterally determine which of their records are “personal” and which are “official,” even in the face of a FOIA request, is laughable.

One cannot help but wonder how Secretary Clinton's departure process was handled.

While The Daily Iowan has compared O’Malley to President Kennedy, Clinton will no doubt have her credibility and leadership questioned by future issues related to her email scandal.

GOP challengers have an unlimited supply of political arrows to hurl at Clinton, with everything from Whitewater to Bengahzi and emailgate as grounds for a Republican winning the White House in 2016.

Democrats in Iowa, New Hampshire and states around the country should choose O’Malley, Webb and hopefully Warren ahead of Clinton.

Obama defeated Clinton in 2008 and O’Malley, Webb and Warren can do the same in 2016.

Ultimately, the Democratic Party needs someone to save it from another scandal or controversy related to Hillary Clinton's quest for the presidency.

The UKIP Meltdown Has Begun


Long simmering tensions within Ukip are now bubbling into public view.

Earlier today, Uncut bumped into an old 1990’s Westminster stalwart who had been involved with the long and difficult development of Ukip’s manifesto. He painted a picture of a house divided, riven by personal and political enmities.

At the root of all of the problems lie Nigel Farage’s personality: a man given to fads and enthusiasms with a notoriously thin skin and a congenital inability to hold his tongue or stick by the rules he sets for others.

Farage’s elision of immigration and race is blamed for toxifying Ukip’s brand by Douglas Carswell who is now operating virtually as an independent.

Mark Reckless is said to feel that Farage doesn’t understand the scale of risk he took in defecting while Raheem Kassam, Farage’s spinner, is regarded by many MEPs and staffers as a poisonous disaster.

Douglas Carswell’s absence from today’s manifesto launch almost did not register.

He was absent from Ukip’s general election campaign launch at the end of March and can barely bring himself even to mention Nigel Farage’s name.

A prolific tweeter, Carswell has managed just two tweets in more than 250 over the past fortnight that mention his leader. Probably a record for a candidate in this campaign.

Mark Reckless has always lacked a certain bonhomie, as his former Conservative parliamentary colleagues attest, and has been cut out of the leader’s inner circle.

Party resources aren’t flowing into Rochester and Strood to defend the seat as volunteers are being directed to Thanet to fight for Farage and so Reckless too is coming to terms with life as a virtual independent.

His absence from today’s manifesto launch was also notable.

That Ukip’s two sitting MPs had better things to do than present a united front with their leader, speaks volumes about their estrangement from Nigel Farage.

Raheem Kassam was hired last November by Farage and is very much the leader’s shiny new toy.

Kassam is blamed for Farage’s decision to focus on migrants with HIV in the leader’s debate, infuriating Carswell, whose father was one of the first to identify HIV/Aids in Uganda in the 1980s.

Kassam has also made enemies among the party’s MEPs, particularly the popular former director of communications, Patrick O’Flynn.

Kassam used to edit the right-wing Breitbart site which coincidentally ran a story outlining how “senior members” of Ukip were moving to remove O’Flynn for being anti-business.

Yet Kassam retains the leader’s ear so he remains in post.

As Ukip’s poll rating slides, so the pretenders to the throne manoeuvre.

Farage is already said to be exhausted, irritable and prone to tearing up his schedule.

With three weeks to go, insiders fear that if the poll rating sinks below 10%, any last vestiges of discipline will breakdown and the party will very publicly implode, just as voters make their decision.

Don't Buy UKIP's Hypocrisy On TTIP

Ruby Stockham writes:

In their manifesto (p.17), UKIP call it ‘astonishing’ that other parties can remain committed to EU membership whilst opposing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

They say:

“The level of public concern around TTIP makes it a good example of what can potentially go wrong while we remain in the EU and allow EU Commissioners to negotiate every single trade agreement on behalf of twenty-eight member states, including the UK, en bloc.

“Fears of what TTIP might contain precisely illustrate why UKIP believes we should leave the EU and negotiate our own free trade agreements again.

“We find it astonishing that other political parties, while launching high-profile campaigns against TTIP, nevertheless remain committed to our EU membership. Their hypocrisy is shameless.”

UKIP’s pledge to secure the exclusion of the NHS by name from TTIP is couched in anti-EU sentiment.

But they are missing the point. The problem most parties have with TTIP is not where it’s negotiated; it’s the content of the deal.

For example, TTIP will bring EU food and environment safety standards closer to those of the US. US regulations are far less strict.

In the EU, a substance has to be proven safe before it can be used; in the US a substance can be used until proven unsafe.

The difference this makes is alarming; the EU currently bans 1,200 substances from use in cosmetics, the US just 12.

Another matter for concern is the way TTIP could affect employment. In a briefing from last year (p.9), the European parliament admitted that:

“Simulations by Capaldo (2014)44 find that TTIP would lead to net losses in terms of GDP, personal incomes and employment in the EU (income decrease between Euro 165 and Euro 5 000, approximately 600 000 job losses, a continuing downward trend of the labour share).”

The US also has lower labour standards and employment rights than EU countries, which is why workers are opposed to the deal across the EU – not just in the UK.

This is not a deal that will benefit workers or public services anywhere in the EU, which is why using it as an example of what the EU is dragging us into doesn’t work.

It makes sense for trade negotiations with big trading blocs like the US to be handled by the EU, rather than by each country individually. And it is not as though the UK has joined unwillingly.

Another big problem people have with TTIP is that it is undemocratic.

The investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) is a treaty which would allow corporations to sue governments before an arbitration panel made up of corporate lawyers, at which other people have no representation, and which is not subject to judicial review.

This could lead to situations like that which has allowed tobacco giant Philip Morris to sue Uruguay for its anti-smoking campaign.

Last year, 14 states wrote to the EU Commissioner trying to secure the inclusion of ISDS in the deal.

As George Monbiot pointed out in the Guardian, this was a campaign led by David Cameron, and one that is vociferously opposed by campaigners in most member states.

So while the deal has come out of the collusion of EU leaders, its impact on Britain simply cannot be blamed on the fact of the European Union existing.

UKIP are actually in favour of many of the things TTIP stands for; they just don’t like it being negotiated by the EU. Last year Nigel Farage said as much in a statement to the IBT:

“UKIP is in favour of free trade, but we are opposed to the undemocratic Commission negotiating on our behalf. Of course we look at each trade deal on case by case basis.”

UKIP MEP Roger Helmer wrote on his blog:

“If we’d been a free and independent country, I rather suspect we’d have had such a deal with the US ten years ago, if not twenty [….]  I think we have no alternative but to support the deal, even if we’d rather have done it ourselves. And of course in principle free trade is an excellent thing, a consummation devoutly to be wished.”

UKIP would welcome the relaxation of environmental restrictions that they complain are forced on the UK by the EU.

They are in favour of reduced rights for workers – they want to scrap race discrimination laws, think paid maternity leave is ‘lunacy’ and want to scrap holiday and sick pay. Their manifesto (p.40) says:

“Some EU directives, such as the Working Time Directive, need amending because they actively restrict the British work ethos and therefore our economy.

And where the NHS is concerned, UKIP are not to be trusted.

They may claim they want to protect it now, but Farage has changed his mind many times on privatising the health service; his ominous assertions that a ‘debate’ is needed suggest that when the going gets tough, UKIP won’t stand up for the NHS.

This is why UKIP’s manifesto pledge on TTIP is nothing to do with public concern, and instead demonstrates pure egotism.

They do want the undemocratic TTIP deal; they just wish they had thought of it themselves.

Take Your Chuffing Pick

Mark Ferguson writes:

We’re only a few weeks from the general election. Tonight is the challengers debate.

So we’re going to have to have a serious conversation about so-called “tactical voting” and “protest voting”. In particular, we’re going to have to talk about why it’s a bad idea.

Really, it shouldn’t be necessary to have this conversation, because we’ve been here before oh so very recently.

In 2010, groups such as Compass (and a few senior Labour figures too – lest we forget) encouraged people to vote Lib Dem to stop the Tories in many marginals, only for the Lib Dems to walk hand-in-hand into the Rose Garden and through the Aye lobby in favour of the Bedroom Tax, NHS reorganisation, trebling tuition fees and any other policy this government have introduced that you might not like – take your chuffing pick.

Now despite the fact that it was argued that in most cases “tactical voting” meant more votes for Labour, many were unconvinced, and some who – like me – were campaigning for Labour against the Lib Dems found it ludicrously unhelpful, especially when “Cleggmania” arrived.

And yet here we are again. This election one suggestion is that Labour and Green voters should “vote swap” ahead of election day.

It’s a tacit acceptance that voting Green in all but one seat is an utterly fruitless endeavour (if we’re honest). By voting Green rather than Labour – in almost every conceivable circumstance, including (by the way) in Brighton Pavillion – there’s more chance of a Tory or Lib Dem MP being elected on May 7th.

Now you can complain about the electoral system if you like – I’d like to change it myself, actually – but it’s the one we still (after a boring referendum) have.

If you want proof that trying to be tactical about your voting plans is foolhardy – take a look at this piece from George Monbiot in yesterday’s Guardian

He lists 16 seats where voting Green could help the Tories – yet omits the four seats from an Ashcroft poll published only a day earlier where Green vote is equal or greater to the Tory lead over Labour.

If potential Labour supporters voted Green in those seats out of a misplaced sense of tactics or protest, then those seats will have Tory MPs in a month’s time.

By this point, some of you will be grumpily suggesting that this is a typical majoritarian brutalism from a Labour supporter.

Stop. Right. There.

No-one is more tired than me of the constant “only Labour can beat the Tories” refrain parroted by Labour politicians.

Politics should at least attempt to inspire people to vote, not beat them over the head with their own lack of choice.

Labour should be explaining that – as I believe – they are the party that has the best ideas for running the country, the right experience to implement those ideas and the drive to see it through.

I want you to be inspired to vote Labour, excited to vote Labour and enthusiastic about doing so – not because of some brutalist vote x or get y manoeuvre.

The only time I want to hear “only Labour” from Miliband in tonight’s TV debate is that Labour’s the only party you should vote for, because – united, with a policy platform and the Tories on the run – it’s not just the best placed party to beat the Tories, it’s the best party full stop.

So please don’t take this as an expression of that base, narrow and unappealing “only Labour” argument.


There had to be a but.

This election looks like it’s going to be pretty damn close.

We’re not talking about expressions of discontent here, we’re talking about who gets to run the country – a choice between two starkly differing visions.

It’s easy to claim that all major parties are the same, but no-one who’s read both manifestos could realistically say that.

And in that messy, complex period of days or even weeks after May 7th, seats will matter. But so will the “popular vote”.

If the Tories lose on seats but “win” even by a hairs breadth on total votes cast, you can bet your bottom dollar David Cameron will see it as his chance to cling to the Downing Street doorframe.

(It’s a bad argument for Cameron to make – Labour won the popular vote in 1951 and lost the election, but then the Tories had a majority in the Commons, it’s near impossible for Miliband to have a majority of MPs and lose the popular vote this time).

This isn’t going to be one of those elections where it doesn’t matter if you vote in a safe seat or not. It matters.

I live in a relatively safe Tory seat – but when talking about the popular vote, my vote will matter as much as any vote in the most marginal or marginals.

Now if you’re broadly on the left, and you seriously think that it doesn’t matter whether David Cameron or Ed Miliband becomes Prime Minister, that it really doesn’t matter whether the Tories or Labour are the largest party after May 7th – and it doesn’t matter who wins the popular vote – then I’m sorry the Labour Party has failed to convince you, and although I disagree, you should probably go and vote for someone else.

Of course – everybody should vote for whoever they want, and neither I nor anyone else can or should tell you otherwise.

That’s the wonder of democracy.

But if you have a preference in this election and you choose to vote tactically for a party you don’t support, or use your vote as a protest. Well on May 8th, and whatever comes after, you may live to regret that.

Ask anyone who voted Lib Dem through protest or tactics in 2010.

They’ll tell you just how that feels…

Recovered Memory

Despite the pronounced scepticism of Lord Carrington and of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (since they saw it as nothing to do with Britain, and as likely to offend key allies and trading partners), Margaret Thatcher and Michael Heseltine allocated Crown property for a National Holocaust Memorial within a few hundred yards of the Cenotaph.

Britain's main contribution to the Holocaust had been Churchill's refusal to bomb the railway lines to Auschwitz, a refusal which much later moved Menachem Begin to inform Margaret Thatcher that her country and her hero had caused the deaths of two million Jews.

He himself had armed Argentina during the Falklands War, only months before the controversy over this proposed monument ostensibly to one thing but really to another.

However, the promise of it had been made to the Board of Deputies of British Jews, in those days a hopeless bunch of zealots, and to the Zealot-in-Chief, the then Labour MP, Greville Janner.

Janner, the second generation MP for the same seat as well as a second generation President of the Board of Deputies, spent many decades screeching "Anti-Semitism! Anti-Semitism! Nazi! Nazi!" at anyone who dared to question how he had made his own considerable pots of money. For example.

Janner was still active in the House of Lords until last year's Police raids on his office there and on his home. But now, apparently, he has dementia.

In a way, haven't we all?

For there is no memorial, anywhere on the face of the earth, to those who fell in and for the Palestine that was a country on the map, with the Union Flag in the corner of its own and with red postboxes bearing the crowned letters GR.

The answer to the supposedly rhetorical question, "Who was the last King of Palestine?" is "George VI."

That British country was bombed out of existence by the founders of modern terrorism. For example, Menachem Begin.

His successors' utter lack of regret about even the most extreme anti-British violence has no mainstream political parallel outside Zimbabwe. It is a wonder that there is not a statue of him in London. But give it time. Probably not very much more time.

Israel is the only country in the world that could have attacked an American naval vessel, killed 34 of her 294 crew members, and injured a further 174, all without the slightest consequence.

The Iranian and Israeli Embassies in London are both in South Kensington. On the former's property, but visible from the street, a memorial to the USS Liberty might usefully be erected.

An annual wreath-laying ceremony would be broadcast on RT, Al Jazeera and Press TV, and on Channel 4 News on a good day. But do not hold your breath for even the slightest coverage anywhere else.

Scandalously, the same would be true of the urgently needed National Memorial to British Palestine. Ideally, one yard closer to the Cenotaph than Janner's erection.

Or possibly in place of it, should it have to go the way of the extravagant headstone of Jimmy Savile.