Monday, 27 February 2017

Unto Them That Mourn In Zion

The highest tribute that has been paid upon the death of Sir Gerald Kaufman has been the total silence of the Netanyahu Government's Embassy in London.

Into The Long, Dark Knight

Nigel Farage wants Douglas Carswell to be expelled from UKIP for opposing his knighthood (it has come down from a peerage).

For so we are informed by the front page of tomorrow's Daily Telegraph.

This is the only thing that either UKIP or the Telegraph still cares about.

Jess Phillips For Leader?

I hope that they really are that desperate.

No shortage of women first elected in 2015 have gained preferment under Jeremy Corbyn.

At least two are talked off as potential future Leaders of the Labour Party.

So it's you, Jess. It's just you.

Bring on your Leadership bid. Even the crooked staff could not get you 10 per cent of the votes that they condescended to count.

A Choice To Be Made, A Price To Be Paid

A lot of Leavers are dreadful people and dreadful politicians.

But at least none of those dreadful people is Tony Blair.

And at least none of those dreadful politicians is John Major.

In That Full Knowledge

Theresa May does not want to leave the Customs Union or Thatcher's Single Market.

She knows perfectly well that any final deal on Brexit would require parliamentary approval in order to enact the legislation repealing and superseding the European Communities Act.

And she has absolutely no intention of trying to deport EU nationals who were already here, a move that would be massively unpopular if any attempt were ever made to give it practical effect.

But then, she does not want Brexit at all, and her party made her Leader in that full knowledge.

No one who did want Brexit was even able to contest a Leadership Election against her.

Corbyn’s Critics Offer Nothing

The Morning Star editorialises: 

It is fitting that Jeremy Corbyn’s fiery response to critics who say he should pack it in after last week’s reversal in Copeland came at the Scottish Labour conference yesterday. 

For no part of the country better illustrates than Scotland how bankrupt New Labour’s vision for the party had become, and how counterproductive returning to it would be. 

It’s hardly surprising that Corbyn’s traditional enemies are making a meal of Copeland, arguing that it spells disaster to have lost this “stronghold,” while dismissing the positive result in Stoke since “retaining a rock-solid seat” is “the minimum ask of an opposition party in midterm,” to quote the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland. 

Actually, the fact that Labour had held both seats for a long time does not make them “rock solid.” 

When previous MPs Jamie Reed and Tristram Hunt threw in the towel, the media was near unanimous in terming them marginals — the BBC, Guardian and Spectator all used the term for Copeland, on the reasonable grounds that Labour’s lead over its rivals in both seats had been whittled away for years and was looking distinctly threadbare based on the 2015 results which, of course, predated Corbyn’s election as leader. 

Understanding Labour’s loss of millions of votes from 1997 on is key to any serious fightback for the party. 

The way the British electoral system works means that a slow decline of this sort can be masked for years. A seat in Parliament is a seat in Parliament, no matter how large or small the majority. 

But, as we saw in Scotland in 2015, it cannot be masked forever. 

And a party which once dominated the political scene was reduced in one fell swoop from 41 MPs north of the border to a single one, all under the leadership of “more Blairite than Blair” Jim Murphy, a supporter of all things Tony from tuition fees to Iraq. 

Quite possibly Corbyn’s long-standing opposition to nuclear power went down badly in Copeland, where jobs depend on the nuclear industry. 

But the real tragedy is not that Corbyn is sceptical about an industry over which serious safety questions abound, but that decades of free-market dogma have so decimated British industry that other skilled jobs in the area do not exist. 

If Labour is to turn that around, it needs to be pushing for a real industrial strategy — just as Corbyn and John McDonnell have fleshed out with their plans for a national investment bank to develop our regions and an active, interventionist government that does not leave economic policy to the City of London and the Bank of England. 

Labour activists in Copeland heard on doorsteps that locals had not been canvassed for a decade or more. 

The story will be familiar in many parts of Scotland, where a mixture of Tory-lite economics, complacency and a sense that decisions were being taken in London rather than locally contributed to the success of the nationalists.

But the SNP’s allure is empty. 

In government it has proved a party of spending cuts and austerity, not of the “redistribution of power and wealth” that Corbyn promised yesterday. 

Because Labour’s leader is spot-on that “class, not identity, is what still impacts most on people.” 

Turning Labour into a movement of the class again, into a party made up of and representing working-class communities, is a mammoth task that will not be completed overnight. 

It faces a long legacy of mistrust. 

But Corbyn is right that “now is not the time to retreat, to run away or to give up.” 

Britain needs radical change. Not one of Corbyn’s critics is offering that. 

Few of them seem even to understand it.

The Wrong Envelope, Indeed

An Inside Job

"Do you think Heseltine is an inside job? I do. He's not undermining [Theresa May] at all, he's doing what she wants."

So comments a reader, and it makes sense to me.

If Heseltine were going to attack May at all, then it would be from her economic right.

Or possibly from the more realist and anti-interventionist foreign policy position that caused him to oppose the war in Iraq when she voted in favour of it.

But she does not want Brexit any more than he does.

From her point of view, the more difficult that he makes it, the better.

Up To and Including?

The Conservative candidate's victory speech at Copeland was quite clear, as were Theresa May's words there the next day. 

You would never have thought that there had been a healthy Conservative vote there all along. 

The Conservatives are adamant that they are the party for people who voted Labour until Jeremy Corbyn came along, they or their families having done so at least since the 1930s. 

So much for anyone who voted Conservative up to and including the 2015 General Election.

So much for anyone who has ever voted Conservative in their lives.

But with UKIP defunct, they have nowhere else to go.

Red Pitch

Arguably even German red pitch.

The Conservatives won Copeland by claiming to be, not even "Labour like your dad used to vote for", but "Labour like you used to vote for, not even two full years ago". 

Their pitch is now, not even that they are the Labour Party of Tony Blair, but that they are the Labour Party of Ed Miliband. 

And with UKIP killed off once and for all at Stoke Central, they face no challenge whatever from the Right. 

There now is nothing to the right of State-imposed workers' reps on company boards, of the State's restraint of pay differentials within companies, and of the State's capping of energy prices.

Concilio et Labore?

We of the old school would not ordinarily speculate on these matters before the funeral.

But the Manchester Gorton by-election is David Miliband's opportunity to put up or shut up.

Or even Tony Blair's.

1983 And All That

With the death of Sir Gerald Kaufman, prepare for endless lazy repetition of the line about "the longest suicide note in history".

Then look up the 1983 Labour manifesto.

See, in the intervening 34 years, how much of it has happened, anyway.

And consider how much better Britain would have been if much of the rest had happened, too.

Indeed, from leaving the EU, to abolishing the House of Lords as the only way of leaving the EU (which was precisely Tony Benn's argument before, during and after 1983), it is the Conservatives who are preparing to implement the points that remain unaccomplished.

Just as it has been they who have presided over most of the current period of State-owned banks.

A period that has now lasted for quite some time, and which shows no realistic sign of ever coming to an end.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Truly Remarkable, Indeed

Not one bomb has gone off.

Our esteemed protectors have foiled each and every one of these hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of dastardly plots.

Of course.

Yet their astonishing success means that they need far more extensive and draconian powers than they currently possess, in order to do things that were unthinkable in the days when bombs were going off on a regular basis.

Of course.

Funnily enough, those powers were first proposed in the years between the end of Irish Republican terrorism and the supposed beginning of the Islamist terrorism that never seems to materialise in actual fact.

When Michael Howard wanted to enact these measures, then mainland Britain, at least, positively prided itself on having no terrorist problem of any kind whatever.

Not because people were being foiled from blowing us up, but because no one had any desire to do so.

Now, however, we positively pride ourselves on the aversion of at least one such attempt every day.

With never a day on which anyone, anyone at all, manages to slip through the net.

Of course.

Meaning that the net needs to be made vastly tighter than it already is.

Of course.

Must Make Content With His Fortunes Fit

The White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner is an appalling event.

Elected politicians are expected to pay such court to the media that the very President of the United States must debase himself, and thus his office, by playing the jester.

Donald Trump’s refusal to attend is a very welcome step towards putting those media in their proper place.

Poll Position

It is important that Michael Heseltine cites his opposition to the Poll Tax as the precedent for his impending rebellion against Brexit.

The Poll Tax had put the Conservatives anything up to 20 points behind a Labour Party the Leader of which had offered that levy nothing more than formal Opposition.

The mass campaign of demonstration and non-payment had been organised by Neil Kinnock's archenemies, the Militant Tendency, which to this day crows that it brought down Margaret Thatcher.

In her autobiography, she bitterly endorsed that view, calling the abandonment of the Poll Tax the biggest surrender that the British State had ever made to the Far Left.

The Poll Tax was replaced with the nearest thing to the rates that Heseltine and John Major dared to introduce while hoping to retain any semblance of dignity.

Meanwhile, actual policy on Europe, rather than a single outburst in the heat of a single parliamentary moment, remained unchanged.

Thatcher then, out of office, adopted a Eurosceptical view. But it bore no resemblance to anything that she had ever done in practice as Prime Minister.

That had just been the excuse.

In truth, it had been about the Poll Tax, about domestic policy, about the money in people's monthly pay packets.

What will be Theresa May's Poll Tax? As an excuse, Brexit is ready and waiting.

The Real Story

Jamie Reed resigned precisely because his constituency was one of the last to be massively dependent on a single employer, making it wildly untypical, and especially difficult for Jeremy Corbyn to hold.

So the result at Copeland, the result that Reed wanted and even contrived, cannot be said to mean anything much beyond itself.

The real story is the extinction of UKIP at Stoke Central and, by extension, at large.

UKIP's voters have gone home to the Conservatives, such as to give the latter their majority at Copeland.

That majority has come, not from Labour, but from UKIP.

Marriage Lines

Unmarried opposite-sex partnerships are not some recent innovation. They are this country's historical norm.

Most legal marriages used to last to the grave, if only because they could not be dissolved.

But everyone who knows the first thing about the subject knows that between the Reformation and the late nineteenth century at the absolute earliest, relatively few people in Britain ever were legally married.

They lived together, they had children, women often took men's names. But there was no marriage certificate, and it was quite normal to have several such arrangements over the course of a lifetime.

When people sought the validation of the State (as much local as national) and of its Established Church, then they really did want that validation. And, of course, they could afford to obtain it.

The near-universality of marriage probably did not last 100 years, and it tellingly collapsed under Margaret Thatcher, when the economic order to which it was integral was dismantled.

The introduction of opposite-sex civil partnerships would once again create the space in which the only people who got married were the people who really meant it.

There might not be very many of those on these shores. But there almost, if almost, never have been.

The Green Has Faded Out

You realise quite how the Church in this country has changed when, right here in the old coal and steel belt, the most actively Catholic teenager you know, all of whose ancestors have been Catholics since forever, has no idea when St Patrick's Day is and no inclination to find out.

The Wood For The Trees

Before he took to arboriculture, Michael Heseltine privatised more of the British economy than any other Minister, ever.

It is therefore no wonder that he loves the EU so much.

But what is he on about today?

There has never been the slightest suggestion that people who were already here were going to be kicked out. 

We don't do that if they are from the rest of the world, so why would we do it if they were from the EU?

And the only way to repeal the European Communities Act would be by means of another Act of Parliament, so Parliament already does have the final say.

Well, of course it does. How could it not?

Heseltine does, however, understand that the threat to his own party is from the Lib Dems in dozens of Remain seats in the South, one of which they have already taken in spectacular fashion.

No one, by contrast, is under the slightest threat from UKIP, apart from certain prominent members of UKIP.

Had Jeremy Corbyn not accepted Article 50, which was hardly the most painful political decision that he has ever had to make, then Paul Nuttall might now be the Member of Parliament for Stoke Central.

But instead, Corbyn has killed both Nuttall's career and Nuttall's party stone dead.

Resignation Issues

Copeland has gone from having a wafer thin Labour majority to having a wafer thin Conservative majority, so people are calling on Jeremy Corbyn to resign.

But when Richmond went from having a thumping great Conservative majority to having a thumping great Liberal Democrat majority, then no one called on Theresa May to resign.

The Marrying Kind

Civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples would mean that no one would get married unless they very explicitly wanted to be married, in preference to a specific alternative.

That could only strengthen marriage.

For one thing, divorce could be made far more difficult, at least for people who had chosen marriage after this new arrangement had come into force.

After all, if they had not wanted that, then they could always have had a civil partnership instead.

Over The Water?

Seeking to revive David Miliband, the Transatlantic Torturer, is not quite going all the way back to Tony Blair, as has also been attempted in recent days.

But it is an admission that Jeremy Corbyn's enemies include no sitting member of the House of Commons, nor even any current resident of the United Kingdom, whom anyone might consider capable of becoming Leader of the Labour Party.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Auntie Gets Trumped

Now to refuse the BBC accreditation to the Labour Party Conference while it continues to employ Liar Kuenssberg.

Don't Go Bananas

Who cares what David Miliband says about anything?

He was once beaten by Ed Miliband, and that is quite a feat.

Big before Twitter and Facebook were, he was such an object of ridicule in his day that he would be drowned in the gales of derision these days.

But he is also a nasty piece of work, and heavily implicated in torture.

Younger voters would be forgiven for not knowing who he was. In fact, if they did know who he was, then someone would need to tell them to get a life.

And since when was Gerard Coyne a major figure in the trade union movement? He simply isn't.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Swinging On The Right

The collapse of UKIP happened, not only at Stoke Central, but also at Copeland.

That was where the Conservative majority came from.

There Should Be No Suggestion

There was no suggestion that Ed Miliband resign as Leader of the Labour Party after it had lost Bradford West to Respect, and after it had very nearly lost Heywood and Middleton to UKIP.

There should no suggestion that Jeremy Corbyn resign as Leader of the Labour Party after it has seen Copeland turn from one of its own marginal seats to one of the Conservatives'.

Still less after it has defeated UKIP at Stoke Central, such as to have destroyed that party as even the limited political force that it ever truly was.

It Says It All

Only Lib Dems and Kippers vote in elections based on the issue of the EU.

On that issue, the Lib Dems win more. Which is to say that on that issue, the Lib Dems win anything at all.

Does anyone know what kind of Brexit is favoured by Trudy Harrison? Has anyone ever bothered to ask?

She won based on the future of the nuclear power industry in Copeland. 

Labour's and its Leader's position on that question was misrepresented. But politics can have that side to it, you know.

If she is Hard Brexiteer, then she is in a distinct minority among Conservative MPs.

It is really very unlikely that she is. But if she is, then she will say so explicitly.

If she says something about trusting the Prime Minister to deliver the best deal for Britain, then she isn't.

But it says it all that no one seems to have thought to check, and that quite possibly no one ever will.

It just wasn't considered a question. Well, it doesn't determine the vote of anyone who matters in a Labour-Conservative marginal.

Well To Their Left

The extreme right-wing MPs who resigned in order to cause these by-elections have both been succeeded by MPs well to their left.

Even though one of the newly elected is an abusively anti-Corbyn Labourite, while the other is a Conservative.

Still, though, they are both well to the left of Tristram Hunt and Jamie Reed. 

A political party died in the early hours of this morning. But it was not the Labour Party. 

Stoke Central was supposed to have been the main event. Until Labour had the impertinence to hold it.

It Seems To Be Working

If most people, including most Leave voters, never heard the word "Brexit" again, then it would be too soon.
 
A high proportion of those who voted in the referendum did not, do not, and will not vote in elections, including yesterday's elections.
 
The Right died last night.
 
Copeland ended any possibility of a challenge to Theresa May, or even of a critique of her, from that wing of her own party, in which she now has a completely free hand.
 
Meanwhile, Stoke Central ended UKIP altogether.
 
Based on May's staggeringly left-wing domestic programme, the centre is now whatever Jeremy Corbyn happens to say.
 
Just so long as she still gets to be rude about him personally while reading out the policies that two years ago were peculiar to him and to John McDonnell.
 
The death of UKIP means that there is no one to object to that from the Right.
 
Her reading out of Corbynism in the style of Margot Leadbetter is now as far right as British politics goes.
 
She has entirely accepted Corbyn's terms of debate.
 
And the capture of Copeland (hardly Bolsover, but even so) cannot be seen as anything other than a vindication of that acceptance.
 
That is what Britain now is.
 
A country in which the Christian Democratic Left seeks to enact as much as possible of the Social Democratic Left's programme while holding it up as a bogeyman for electoral purposes.
 
It seems to be working.

Easily Coped With

Just as Labour had barely won Copeland in 2015 (I don't know where this safe seat business comes from; is that just because it's "Up North"?), so the Conservatives barely won Copeland last night.
 
But they did win, and they did so on Theresa May's left-of-Ed-Miliband programme.
 
Meanwhile, UKIP died at Stoke Central, and its only MP appeared on Question Time to say that that was because it was not, "A traditional working-class party of Keir Hardie."
 
This country's sinistrisme is complete.
 
Between them, there is nothing that cannot now be enacted by two Party Leaders who are respectively a Left Christian Democrat and a Left Social Democrat.
 
Opposed only by the MPs who signed the anti-Bercow motion.
 
And there are all of five of those.
 
Five.
 
Out of 650.

Goodnight, UKIP

Whatever it was, it's over.

Hancock's Half Cut

Truly a key ally of George Osborne's. On the telly while off his face.

Never mind whether or not he can name the candidate. Can the Conservative candidate at Stoke Central name Matt Hancock? 

Every Government contains people whose presence is baffling; I was on Hilary Armstrong's Constituency Executive when she was Chief Whip.

But this one contains hardly anybody else. 

Within that, Hancock and Liz Truss are particularly jaw-dropping. 

I am not convinced that Hancock is real. I suspect that he is a bad undergraduate revue's attempt to satirise a Tory MP.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

One Year On

Thomas Mair described himself to the Police as “a political activist”, and so he was. 

No Irish Republican organisation has murdered a Member of Parliament in the present century or in the preceding decade, and the people responsible are now such pillars of the British Establishment that they stay overnight at Windsor Castle and so forth. 

No Islamist or Leftist organisation has ever murdered a Member of Parliament. But the Far Right has done so, only last year. 

National Fronts come and BNPs go, EDLs come and Britain Firsts go, but certain institutional and organisational manifestations of the Far Right are perennial, hitherto even permanent. 

Mair’s is the Springbok Club, which is run by the people who also run the London Swinton Circle. And that, in turn, was addressed by Liam Fox (born 1961) and by Owen Paterson (born 1956) as recently as 2014. 

Ah, those old 1980s Tory Boys, in their Hang Mandela T-shirts and all the rest of it. Wherever did they all end up? 

In the Thatcher and, to a lesser extent, Major years, there were Ministers who were members of the Western Goals Institute or the Monday Club. 

Those crossed over, via such things as the League of Saint George, to overt neo-Nazism on the Continent, to the Ku Klux Klan, to apartheid South Africa, to Ian Smith’s Rhodesia, to the juntas of Latin America, to Marcos and Suharto, to the Duvaliers, and so on. 

Nick Griffin’s father, Edgar, was a Vice-President of Iain Duncan Smith’s Leadership Campaign. He answered what was listed as one of its official telephone numbers (in his house) with the words “British National Party”. 

The days of treating even support for the NHS as Loony Leftism, while maintaining no right flank whatever on the officially designated political mainstream, are well and truly over. 

The dominoes have already started to fall.

Some highly prominent people in what thinks that it is now this country’s perpetual party of government need to be very, very, very afraid.

The Big Day

"It is good that Corbyn keeps winning elections, because he can't win elections" is a line with a fairly obvious flaw in it. 

The only places that he ever loses are places that have never voted Labour, anyway. 

If UKIP cannot win Stoke Central, then it just cannot win.

Likewise, if the Conservatives cannot win Copeland, then they cannot win any seat that they do not currently hold.

In the Remain heartlands of the South, they are already on course to lose dozens of those seats to the Lib Dems, who need only to be the First Past the Post in them.

Meanwhile, if Labour does not lose either Stoke Central or Copeland, marginals that are used to right-wing MPs, then it is not going to lose anywhere in 2020.

That hung Parliament is going to be far more interesting that the last one.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The Language of Priorities

As a wise man put it to me today, "Which is more important, opposing Donald Trump, or saving the NHS?"

Of course, he intended that as a rhetorical question.

And of course, he was right to do so.

Crumbling Into Despair


Quite.

A talentless but titled hack from the right family, Toby Young has wrought havoc as a self-appointed expert on education, taken entirely at face value by the stalwarts of the same dinner party circuit.

And he has not finished yet.

Having announced that I, Daniel Blake did not "ring true" to his own experience of, unlike the eponymous character, never having done a day's work in his life, he is clearly positioning himself as the man to make the benefits system even worse that it already is.

The Wolf At The Door

Perhaps Labour has cried wolf a bit about the NHS over the last 70 years.

But hospital services in nearly two thirds of England are now to be cut or scaled back.

Did you vote for that?

Nor will you.

Plainly Political Reasons

It turns out that the 39-year-old French Presidential candidate, Emmanuel Macron, comes from Amiens, and is married to his former teacher, although of course nothing became official until he had gone off to university. 

Well, some of us know that generation of Picards of old, don't we?

Whoever goes up against Marine Le Pen in the second round will win, so that needs to be the right person, which Macron simply isn't, for plainly political reasons.

There is talk that juicy this and juicy that are going to be leaked in order to damage him. But it would be better to beat him on policy.

Similarly, there is talk that MI5 or whoever intends to leak something or other about Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell in the run-up to the next General Election.

As if anyone would care.

The spooks and their newspapers of choice might think that everyone in Britain was a hardcore Zionist (which the spooks themselves certainly never used to be) and a hardcore Ulster Unionist (which the Deep State never was historically, either).

But they would be in for quite a shock.

Mostly, if the nation noticed at all, then it would yawn.

By 2020, a Sinn Féiner, too young to have participated in the Troubles, might have been the First Minister of Northern Ireland for three years without the sky's having fallen in.

Not that anyone in Great Britain ever really notices Northern Ireland, anyway. Well, apart from the diehard Irish Republicans, of course.

Nor do they take sides in the Middle East. Well, apart from the Muslims, of course. Plus a section of the Jews, but it is not clear how large a section, and in any case there are vastly fewer of those.

This, though, is all that Corbyn's enemies have.

By common consent, people agree with his policies.

We are expected to believe merely that they would prefer them to be delivered by someone younger and better-dressed.

But Theresa May is already 60, and she is prone to serious wardrobe malfunctions several times per week.

The 2020 Election is going to be about policy. And she doesn't really have any. But he has lots.

Bear Facts


Do the Russians really fund European politicians who criticise neoliberal economic policy and neoconservative foreign policy?

If so, then I can only assume that my cheque has got lost in the post. All I wanted was enough to stand for Durham County Council and Lanchester Parish Council this year.

Seriously, we all know that these hysterical lists of Kremlin-backed, Putin-indebted people and parties are exactly that: hysterical, in both senses of the word.

But it is a different question how far Dr McMaster, for all his devastating thesis on the Vietnam War, appreciates this reality.

Bernie Sanders would have won.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Of Homes and Houses

Upon his return to Britain, where could Milo "Sex With 13-Year-Olds" Yiannopoulos possibly live?

Upon his return to Merseyside, where could Paul "Hillsborough Liar" Nuttall possibly live?

Oh, well, remember when the great bogeyman was the BNP? That was the real thing.

It once got Andrew Brons elected to the European Parliament. If you need to, then look up Andrew Brons.

It says a great deal about today's sinistrisme in British politics that its place has been taken by nothing more than UKIP as the ostensible reason why we must retain the First Past the Post electoral system.

But three days from now, even that reason will no longer exist.

Reviving the opportunity that ought to have been taken at the recent reduction in the number of constituency MPs from 650 to 600.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and each of the nine English regions, would elect five additional MPs, with each elector voting for one candidate, and with the top five elected at the end.

The main parties would be required, and the other parties would be permitted, to submit their shortlists of two for those nominations to an independent, binding, publicly funded ballot of all registered electors in the relevant area.

This would be extended to local government, with the additional Councillors elected by this means from each of the parts of a given municipal area falling within a particular parliamentary constituency.

All of this could still be put in place in time for the General Election of 2020.

These primary and proportional aspects are essential to the restoration of the powers of Parliament and of local government, and to the extension of those powers beyond their historical limits.

Although the most essential thing of all to that restoration and extension, and then to their entrenchment and protection, is far greater economic equality, so that no one's vote effectively counted far more than anyone else's.

Not Living Up To Its Promise

The great Professor Prem Sikka writes:

Whatever route the government chooses for Brexit it will need to cooperate with other countries, especially our EU neighbours, to combat tax avoidance, tax evasion and money laundering. 

Yet the signs are not very good as the government seems to have chosen non-cooperation. It has snubbed the EU inquiry into the Panama Papers.

Last year, a leak of 11.5m documents and 2.6 terabytes of information from the office of Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm, drew attention to the possible involvement of UK-based companies, accountants, lawyers, bankers and others in alleged organised tax avoidance and money laundering. 

The leaked documents, known as the Panama Papers, showed that some 1,924 UK-based banks, accountants, lawyers and other intermediaries helped to set up opaque corporate structures that processed illicit financial flows. 

Secretive British crown dependencies and overseas territories act as an outpost of the City of London and facilitate the flow of money.

More than 113,000 of the suspect companies were incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, 15,000 in the Bahamas and a number were also registered in Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. 


In April 2016, the UK government claimed that a special task force was investigating the leak. 

Following the leak, the EU parliament formed a committee of inquiry into money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion, known as the PANA committee, to investigate the issues and develop reforms. 

After months of discussions, it visited London on 9-10 February to take evidence from academics, researchers, accountants, lawyers, banks, HSBC, parliamentary committees, regulators and ministers. 

I was one of the individuals who gave evidence on 9 February. 

On 10 February, the committee was due to meet officials from HM Treasury and Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to learn about the state of its investigations. 

At the last minute, HM Treasury sent a short email and pulled out of the meeting. 

Despite prior discussions, it failed to send any minister or senior civil servant to discuss anything with the PANA committee. 

The HMRC representative was unable to engage fully with the committee. 

Perhaps the Treasury’s snub sends a signal about how the UK will cooperate, or otherwise, with the EU after Brexit. 

It is quite likely that treasury ministers Jane Ellison and/or David Gauke did not show up because they would have been unable to defend the UK’s ineffective regulatory response. 

The UK has a poor record. Previously, inside information provided by HSBC whistleblower Hervé Daniel Marcel Falciani to HMRC showed that the bank’s Swiss branch may have helped wealthy people to evade taxes. 

Only one individual from the Falciani list of some 3,600 potential UK tax evaders has been prosecuted. 

In January 2016, HMRC told the Public Accounts Committee that it had abandoned its criminal investigation

By HMRC’s own admission, there have been only 13 offshore-specific prosecutions since 2009 as it puts more emphasis on making secretive deals than sending a message of zero tolerance. 

Matters are not helped by the fact that the government has systematically hollowed out HMRC. 

Deal making and private manipulations are deeply ingrained in the British system. 

In the US, HSBC was fined $1.9bn

The charge sheet issued by the US Department of Justice said that the bank’s failures permitted “narcotics traffickers and others to launder hundreds of millions of dollars through HSBC subsidiaries, and to facilitate hundreds of millions more in transactions with sanctioned countries”. 

Later on, it emerged that then UK chancellor George Osborne and banking regulators were urging the US regulators to go easy and not to prosecute HSBC. 

The UK cannot succeed in combating illicit financial flows because it has poor regulatory structures. 

There are more than 20 regulators dealing with tax avoidance and money laundering and no one adequately coordinates them, scrutinises them or calls them to account for their silence. 

The regulatory patchwork includes HM Treasury, HMRC, the Financial Conduct Authority, National Crime Agency, Serious Fraud Office, Ministry of Justice, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, the Insolvency Service, various professional bodies representing accountants, lawyers, insolvency practitioners and estate agents, to mention just a few. 

The Panama Papers, HSBC and other episodes draw attention to the role of accountants, lawyers and other enablers in facilitating tax evasion and money laundering, but the professional bodies representing them routinely lobby to water down laws and enforcement. 

The same bodies are then expected to investigate and prosecute their own members. 

None owes a duty of care to the public, nor is obliged to reveal the evidence examined by them. 

The result is all too predictable.

On many occasions, judges have declared avoidance schemes developed by accountants to be unlawful but, to this day, not even one accountancy firm has been investigated, prosecuted or fined. 

The UK government’s snub of the EU parliamentary committee is foolish and short-sighted. 

It is hardly a way of making friends for the tough post-Brexit journey ahead. 

In a globalised economy, no country on its own can combat illicit financial flows, and the UK stands to lose more than most because London’s reputation for dirty business will deter honest businesses. 

It will erode the country’s tax base and anger people who pay their taxes only to discover that the government is not living up to its promise of tackling organised tax avoidance/evasion and money laundering.

In All The Places That Were Chic?

I find Owen Jones and Milo Yiannopoulos difficult to tell apart.

But I shan't tell them to get a room. Think of the people in the next room.

"Milo Yiannopoulos's enablers deserve contempt – and must be confronted," announces Jones.

Indeed so.

My ban from the Telegraph's website dates from January 2013, when Damian Thompson dispensed lashings and lashings of Sour Old Fruit (or was it Bitter Lemon?) about Jones.

I posted in reply:

"One from your own era:

Along the boulevards he'd cruise, 
And all the old queens blew a fuse. 

If Owen Jones ends up like Rod Stewart's Georgie, then we shall all know whom to blame."

But Jones would today seem to be in the least physical danger of what has become the trio.

Scab though Owen Jones now is, he nevertheless deserves to be in less physical danger than either Milo "Is That 12-Year-Old Single?" Yiannopoulos or that monster's original Daddy, Damian Thompson.

A Parallel Universe, Indeed


And people wonder why I don't want to be in it.

The Real Problem With Sweden

Civil Right

There is a perfectly reasonable case for civil partnerships to be available to opposite-sex couples. It is not as if those couples would otherwise be getting married. 

Never having needed to be consummated, civil partnerships ought not to be confined to unrelated same-sex couples, or even to unrelated couples generally. 

 That would be a start, anyway. 

Any marrying couple should be entitled to register their marriage as bound by the law prior to 1969 with regard to grounds and procedures for divorce, and any religious organisation should be enabled to specify that any marriage that it conducted should be so bound, requiring it to counsel couples accordingly.

Statute should specify that the Church of England and the Church in Wales each be such a body unless, respectively, the General Synod and the Governing Body specifically resolved the contrary by a two-thirds majority in all three Houses.

There should be similar provision relating to the Methodist and United Reformed Churches, which also exist pursuant to Acts of Parliament, as well as by amendment to the legislation relating to the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy.

Entitlement upon divorce should be fixed by Statute at one per cent of the other party’s estate for each year of marriage, up to 50 per cent, with no entitlement for the petitioning party unless the other party’s fault were proved.

Am I trying to go back to the 1950s? To which features of the 1950s, exactly?

Full employment? Public ownership? The Welfare State? Council housing? Municipal services? Apprenticeships? Free undergraduate tuition?

All of those things were bound up with things like this.

That they have all been eroded or destroyed together has not been a coincidence.

It is not called neoliberalism for nothing.

So Hard To Beat?

Do you have a teenage son, or another teenage boy in your charge?

Is he in the United States, or might you be minded to let him go there?

If so, then you must demand that that country deport Milo Yiannopoulos.

Deport him, alas, to this country. But we can deal with him once he gets here. He is our problem, not the Americans'.

As his world collapses around him, let us move on to others who have expressed similar views, and who have in some cases given them practical political effect.

As that link sets out, Margaret Thatcher fought Victoria Gillick through the courts, thereby establishing a de facto age of consent of 13 or younger without ever bothering to trouble Parliament to approve it.

But Thatcher is dead. The rest of those listed are still alive.

As is Damian Thompson, who is more to blame than anyone else for the emergence of Milo Yiannopoulos. Frankly, we can all work out what was going on there.

This is the golden opportunity to destroy Damian Thompson. It would be rude not to take it.

Our First Step Is To Reclaim Our Humanity


The events that led to Donald Trump’s election started in England in 1975. 

At a meeting a few months after Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative party, one of her colleagues, or so the story goes, was explaining what he saw as the core beliefs of conservatism. 

She snapped open her handbag, pulled out a dog-eared book, and slammed it on the table. “This is what we believe,” she said. 

A political revolution that would sweep the world had begun. 

The book was The Constitution of Liberty by Frederick Hayek. Its publication, in 1960, marked the transition from an honest, if extreme, philosophy to an outright racket. 

The philosophy was called neoliberalism. It saw competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. 

The market would discover a natural hierarchy of winners and losers, creating a more efficient system than could ever be devised through planning or by design. 

Anything that impeded this process, such as significant tax, regulation, trade union activity or state provision, was counter-productive. 

Unrestricted entrepreneurs would create the wealth that would trickle down to everyone. 

This, at any rate, is how it was originally conceived. 

But by the time Hayek came to write The Constitution of Liberty, the network of lobbyists and thinkers he had founded was being lavishly funded by multimillionaires who saw the doctrine as a means of defending themselves against democracy. 

Not every aspect of the neoliberal programme advanced their interests. Hayek, it seems, set out to close the gap. 

He begins the book by advancing the narrowest possible conception of liberty: an absence of coercion. 

He rejects such notions as political freedom, universal rights, human equality and the distribution of wealth, all of which, by restricting the behaviour of the wealthy and powerful, intrude on the absolute freedom from coercion he demands. 

Democracy, by contrast, “is not an ultimate or absolute value”. 

In fact, liberty depends on preventing the majority from exercising choice over the direction that politics and society might take. 

He justifies this position by creating a heroic narrative of extreme wealth. 

He conflates the economic elite, spending their money in new ways, with philosophical and scientific pioneers. 

Just as the political philosopher should be free to think the unthinkable, so the very rich should be free to do the undoable, without constraint by public interest or public opinion. 

The ultra rich are “scouts”, “experimenting with new styles of living”, who blaze the trails that the rest of society will follow. 

The progress of society depends on the liberty of these “independents” to gain as much money as they want and spend it how they wish. 

All that is good and useful, therefore, arises from inequality. 

There should be no connection between merit and reward, no distinction made between earned and unearned income, and no limit to the rents they can charge. 

Inherited wealth is more socially useful than earned wealth: “the idle rich”, who don’t have to work for their money, can devote themselves to influencing “fields of thought and opinion, of tastes and beliefs”. 

Even when they seem to be spending money on nothing but “aimless display”, they are in fact acting as society’s vanguard. 

Hayek softened his opposition to monopolies and hardened his opposition to trade unions. 

He lambasted progressive taxation and attempts by the state to raise the general welfare of citizens. 

He insisted that there is “an overwhelming case against a free health service for all” and dismissed the conservation of natural resources. 

It should come as no surprise to those who follow such matters that he was awarded the Nobel prize for economics. 

By the time Thatcher slammed his book on the table, a lively network of thinktanks, lobbyists and academics promoting Hayek’s doctrines had been established on both sides of the Atlantic, abundantly financed by some of the world’s richest people and businesses, including DuPont, General Electric, the Coors brewing company, Charles Koch, Richard Mellon Scaife, Lawrence Fertig, the William Volker Fund and the Earhart Foundation.

Using psychology and linguistics to brilliant effect, the thinkers these people sponsored found the words and arguments required to turn Hayek’s anthem to the elite into a plausible political programme.

Thatcherism and Reaganism were not ideologies in their own right: they were just two faces of neoliberalism.

Their massive tax cuts for the rich, crushing of trade unions, reduction in public housing, deregulation, privatisation, outsourcing and competition in public services were all proposed by Hayek and his disciples.

But the real triumph of this network was not its capture of the right, but its colonisation of parties that once stood for everything Hayek detested.

Bill Clinton and Tony Blair did not possess a narrative of their own. Rather than develop a new political story, they thought it was sufficient to triangulate.

In other words, they extracted a few elements of what their parties had once believed, mixed them with elements of what their opponents believed, and developed from this unlikely combination a “third way”.

It was inevitable that the blazing, insurrectionary confidence of neoliberalism would exert a stronger gravitational pull than the dying star of social democracy.

Hayek’s triumph could be witnessed everywhere from Blair’s expansion of the private finance initiative to Clinton’s repeal of the Glass-Steagal Act, which had regulated the financial sector.

For all his grace and touch, Barack Obama, who didn’t possess a narrative either (except “hope”), was slowly reeled in by those who owned the means of persuasion.

As I warned in April, the result is first disempowerment then disenfranchisement.

If the dominant ideology stops governments from changing social outcomes, they can no longer respond to the needs of the electorate.

Politics becomes irrelevant to people’s lives; debate is reduced to the jabber of a remote elite.

The disenfranchised turn instead to a virulent anti-politics in which facts and arguments are replaced by slogans, symbols and sensation.

The man who sank Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency was not Donald Trump. It was her husband.

The paradoxical result is that the backlash against neoliberalism’s crushing of political choice has elevated just the kind of man that Hayek worshipped.

Trump, who has no coherent politics, is not a classic neoliberal.

But he is the perfect representation of Hayek’s “independent”; the beneficiary of inherited wealth, unconstrained by common morality, whose gross predilections strike a new path that others may follow.

The neoliberal thinktankers are now swarming round this hollow man, this empty vessel waiting to be filled by those who know what they want.

The likely result is the demolition of our remaining decencies, beginning with the agreement to limit global warming.

Those who tell the stories run the world. Politics has failed through a lack of competing narratives.

The key task now is to tell a new story of what it is to be a human in the 21st century.

It must be as appealing to some who have voted for Trump and Ukip as it is to the supporters of Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn.

A few of us have been working on this, and can discern what may be the beginning of a story.

It’s too early to say much yet, but at its core is the recognition that – as modern psychology and neuroscience make abundantly clear – human beings, by comparison with any other animals, are both remarkably social and remarkably unselfish.

The atomisation and self-interested behaviour neoliberalism promotes run counter to much of what comprises human nature.

Hayek told us who we are, and he was wrong.

Our first step is to reclaim our humanity.