Summary: Now that most of the election results are in, the spin masters are working flat out to try to persuade us that Labour have been doing well and that Momentum are a key part of doing so well. Sadly it is difficult to believe that four years on from the last local election very little indeed has changed. In those areas that voted to Leave in the referendum both in the North and outside the metropolitan centres Labour is not even treading water. The image both Labour and Momentum project is not particularly appealing and they don’t really seem to be that concerned to do something about it. Until they sort out their public image problem Labour have little chance of winning another general election.
The local elections held on 3 May 2018 have turned out to be particularly worrying for Labour. You don’t have to be particularly left-wing to realise how much is bad in the country and just how poorly the Conservatives are running the country. There is widespread acknowledgement even amongst the right-wing media that lots of things in our society are bad and getting worse. Growth is collapsing and we may even be heading towards recession. There are massive problems with the NHS and social care, the education system, the justice system including prisons, austerity, the gross and increasing inequality, taxation of multinationals and tax avoidance by wealthy individuals and so many other things.
Not to mention the shambles that surrounds the Brexit negotiations. Yet the most dreadful thing is that despite all these problems with a country that suffered nearly 10 years of the most damaging Conservative rule the local election results have barely changed from the results of four years ago. The last general election was very good for Labour and showed how popular change led by Jeremy Corbyn actually was. Labour came very close to being the governing party. But these results suggest the country has got beyond that.
However since the last general election there has been very little change in the public opinion polls with the Tories and Labour close to level pegging. Labour have to appreciate therefore that the general view in the country of Labour is that it’s not that much better or different from the Conservatives. It is shocking that with so much going wrong at present Labour have failed miserably to make any significant impact on the polls. A general election held tomorrow would be unlikely to give a Labour majority.
The media are now talking about the UK having reached “peak Corbyn”. The big difficulty with Labour is that nobody really knows what Labour is all about. Jeremy Corbyn has policies which he has held for over 40 years. In many ways those policies have simply not changed over that period and that is very concerning. Jeremy Corbyn was central to energising the revolution a year ago in the general election. Yet many think that he is not the right person to lead the party into the future. He may not be a very convincing leader and for many voters he personally is a significant turnoff. It is a heresy, of course, to suggest that Jeremy Corbyn might consider standing down. Yet the party does need strong and articulate leadership. The impression that Labour gives is of uncertainty about what it is doing and has so far been unable to articulate what it is going to do about all these issues. That’s what a leader must sort out, and sort out quickly.
Momentum is widely seen as being an left-wing cabal within the increasingly left-wing Labour Party. It’s not clear what Momentum are contributing positively to Labour policy and the Labour image. Even reading the left-wing websites it appears that most of their energies are going into trying to gain strategic power within the Labour Party with a view to manipulating the party rules to their benefit. Some claim that Momentum was key in Labour successes in the local election. They certainly provide a good supply of activists to work for Labour but that does not mean that the way they are perceived more widely is helpful. The idea of Momentum doing anything that might help to improve Labour’s image doesn’t seem to worry their members very much. The impression of being a party within a party is unhelpful. Nobody likes tails wagging dogs!
One of the big problems is that the Labour leadership do not seem to have the capacity to project an engaging image to the public. Jeremy Corbyn is widely accepted as being a man of integrity. Sadly, many years ago he had a charisma bypass operation. In the 21st-century leaders will only be successful at gaining power if they project a successful and compelling image. Sadly soundbites are everything.
Labour are instinctively dismissive of anything that smacks of public relations, image management and effective use of advertising. Unfortunately that isn’t good enough anymore. The public want clear messages presented in a simple and understandable way that are compelling. Labour are not providing those.. If they are they are being crowded out by others that do understand how important these things are.
A good example is the Labour view of Brexit. Labour Party members are strongly for Remain. Some MPs, believing that the guidance they had from their constituents from the referendum must be followed blindly, even though it is widely accepted that the results was a consequence of some fairly impressive lies. Everyone interprets the referendum result differently but what Labour want is pretty unclear. It is at present one of the key areas that people are looking to Labour to provide a coherent alternative to the incoherent Tory negotiations.
There needs to be strong and unambiguous criticism of the way the Brexit negotiations are be handled by the Conservatives with a message that unless the final deal is good for the less well-off and allows the UK to grow strongly in the future then we may need to go back for a renegotiation and perhaps even a second vote. Whatever they do it really requires that they say something plain and clear and stop beating about the bush.
As a strong Labour supporter myself with many Labour supporting friends I have sensed their frustration with the party not capitalising on the breadth of support that it has for a radical new agenda. Whatever interpretation one might put on the referendum result there was a very clear call for change. Many of my Labour friends have openly expressed their frustration with the party as it is now. They do not want any other party in power but they do want a party that they can connect with and that they respect.
To achieve that Labour needs to be very clear about what it will do in each and every sector that is doing badly and explain simply how they will handle this in future. Labour instinctively hates the idea of spin but that is how the world works. Suck it up boys and girls, get on with it and try to recreate yourselves as an energetic left-wing party in the 21st-century. The 1970s weren’t that great and most people on the left realise that.
Summary: Theresa May in this photograph, taken yesterday, has the expression of a mediaeval saint about to be horribly martyred. She is responsible for the extraordinary nastiness of the hostile environments policy she developed as Home Secretary. We are now seeing it exposed with the Windrush scandal and so many other parts of what is happening with the UK immigration policies. She has consistently worked to make Conservative policy nastier and nastier whenever it comes to foreigners from outside the EU. Yet she neglected totally what she could have done easily within the current EU regulations to manage immigration from within Europe.
It is difficult to exaggerate the awfulness of Theresa May’s time both in the Home Office and as PM when we think about her effect on immigration. In 2013 the Home Office (Theresa May was Home Secretary then) establish her “hostile environments policy” which was designed to put every possible impediment in the way of immigration from outside the EU.
For many years apparently minor changes to Home Office rules have been made to tighten the screws on almost anyone who wants to come to work in the UK even if they have a firm job offer. Bringing in your partner or your children is made almost impossible if you are a lower earner. If you don’t have the right documentation you will be thrown out summarily.
The inhumanity of one tiny aspect of that policy has been exposed by the Windrush scandal. Jamaicans who arrived in the UK at the invitation of the British government were given no papers on arrival. They worked for decades, paying their taxes and national insurance only to find themselves being summarily deprived of their jobs, medical and social care treatment and any access to benefits. In one case a man who had been in the UK for over 40 years was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was asked for £54,000 upfront for treatment. Others have already been deported.
But that is only one part of what has been so awful. In order for a non-EU citizen to come to the UK and work they need a Certificate of Sponsorship. These are issued provided the applicant has been offered a job that is well paid, at least £30,000 and for some jobs much more than that. The number of CoS’s available and granted has dropped by 60% over the last 12 months. We now have a situation where highly qualified consultants from outside the EU are being offered posts that the NHS desperately needs filled to have their CoS denied. Others critical to our economy are being turned away.
And then what happens if you have a job (and many immigrants have relatively low paid jobs) and you want to be joined in the UK by your partner and children? Well, in many cases, that’s just too bad. You would have to earn nearly £25,000 per annum to bring your wife and two children. And an extra £200 per year for healthcare. And the Visa only lasts for 33 months though it can be reapplied for. After five years you can apply for permanent residency (a cost of over £1000).
You also have to provide an enormous amount of documentary evidence such as having lived together, having children together (can you prove they are your children?) or having a shared bank account or savings together. Often not the case for people on low income. If you get divorced everyone is out. And don’t for a moment think that any of this will be resolved quickly. Often summary deportation documents will be issued and you can be arrested and within 72 hours put on the next plane out. Massive inefficiencies in the Home Office procedures can mean detention for years. The system is harsh and has no concept of humanity. It redefines the concept of being nasty and unthinking and uncaring.
While all this was going on, Theresa May as Home Secretary did absolutely nothing to implement the standard widely agreed EU regulations covering the movement of people into the UK from within the EU. There are many limitations and restrictions that could be imposed. These regulations require a level of income, and many other restrictions that stop people living here on benefits. You can read more about that here: http://outsidethebubble.net/2018/02/26/labour-can-substantially-restrict-freedom-of-movement-under-current-arrangements/ .
Brexit was a great success for the Leave campaigns who have admitted using Nazi era propaganda methods of disinformation and exaggeration. One of the key concerns of the UK electorate has been for many years in word immigration. The way these are counted to include people such as students who almost always return to their home country yet are assumed to stay on is typical of what has happened.
The Brexit campaign used these concerns quite unashamedly. The notorious picture of Nigel Farage in front of poster showing a line of refugees taken far from British or indeed European borders. Using the techniques outlined by Cambridge Analytica they fed the most outrageous lies through social media to pervert a referendum in a totally undemocratic way.
Their total opposition of Brexiteers to a second referendum shows everyone that they know they have been found out and they dare not allow another vote that they realise they could well lose. Gradually people are realising that the country simply cannot function without immigration no matter how much the right-wing media keep focusing on it.
What happens to the 3 million EU citizens currently living in the UK after Brexit? This of course is another part of the negotiations that have not yet been finalised. It is likely that each will have to pay a fee in excess of £1000 for this application. This will only apply to anybody from the EU who are still left in the UK after Brexit!
Summary: Jeremy Corbyn has clearly stated on a number of occasions that he agrees with Leave campaigners that the unlimited free movement of EU citizens to the UK must be curtailed. It is not widely known that the rules that define the permitted extent of Freedom of Movement within the European Union allow very much more control than the UK currently exercises. Working EU citizens are allowed in but non-economically active EU citizens can only stay longer than three months if they have sufficient finance and take out a comprehensive sickness insurance policy. Benefit/welfare tourism is illegal and EU citizens who have not been working have no rights to benefits. Theresa May was Home Secretary from 2010 yet she did nothing even though it was in her power simply to implement the rules as drawn up when the UK joined the European Union. This is an extraordinary example of massive and shameful negligence by Theresa May and provided much of the momentum leading to the success of the Leave campaign.
There is no reason why the Labour Party should not simply accept the full potential restrictions there are on EU migration. By doing so many of the soundbite objections to free movement used by the right-wing media and many of the Leave supporters could be re-spun as Labour Party policy. Such an approach would show Labour in a positive light about immigration as well as being entirely compatible with the existing memberships that the UK has of the EU.
One of the key promises of David Cameron’s government was to reduce immigration to a level of tens of thousands. The implementation of immigration policy was the responsibility of Theresa May, the Home Secretary from 2010 until she became Prime Minister in the middle of 2016. Around half the net migration into the UK was from countries outside the EU and therefore potentially controllable by the Home Office. The other half comes from the EU and politicians of all shades in the UK have accepted that the unrestricted freedom of movement (FoM) of people from the EU at any time was part of being a member of the European Union. There is presently no attempt to track people coming into the UK with an EU passport or indeed to track them when they leave the UK. Estimates of EU migration are indeed estimates as accurate figures do not exist. In a comment by Colin Gordon in a piece on the leftfootforward.org website by Ian Dunt it is pointed out that, incredibly, the above understanding of EU citizens rights under the FoM provisions are being seriously misrepresented by politicians from all sides and in particular from those of the Leave campaign. This is detailed in: http://tinyurl.com/jjysrx9. A more detailed piece by Prof.Brad K. Blitz may be found at: http://bit.ly/1DG3I4I. For those who really have a lot of time on your hands, the regulations covering free movement of workers within the European Union can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/zl5rw4s (the website of the European Parliament).
What are these rules in reality? Freedom for a citizen of another EU member state to move to the UK applies to (taken from http://tinyurl.com/jjysrx9):
- Economically active EU-citizens (i.e. working)
- Plus their families if EU-citizens
- Non-economically active EU-citizens for up to 3-months
- In addition, non-economically active (not working) EU-citizens can stay longer than 3-months provided:
- They can show they have sufficient finance
- They take out a comprehensive sickness insurance policy
Freedom of Movement does not apply to:
• Non-economically active EU-citizens without funds
• Non-economically active EU-citizens without sickness insurance
• EU-citizens who have no realistic chance of working
• Family members of an EU citizen who is not an EU Citizen may reside in the UK but does not have an automatic right to work
• EU-citizens working in the UK acquire rights to benefits after working for a period
• EU-citizens not working do not have rights to Benefits.
In addition, the UK has the right to restrict FoM through:
• Suspension of the FoM for up to 7 years from when a new member country joins by preventing/prohibiting movement or the UK can insist upon work permits for each migrant
• Benefit/Welfare “tourism” is illegal
No-one has been prosecuted to-date under these regulations as the UK is not tracking movement of EU citizens in and out of the UK.
The piece on: http://tinyurl.com/jjysrx9 also summarises research showing the current levels of benefit tourism (essentially undetectable) and also points out that research clearly demonstrates that migrants do not appear to reduce wages and do not appear to take jobs from the UK natives. Because migrants from the EU are young and healthy and keen to work, the HMRC said that in the year 2013/2014 recently arrived EEA nationals paid £3.1 billion in income tax and took out £0.56 billion in HMRC benefits.
The fact that the British government has completely failed to implement the controls outlined above which already exist and do not require any changes in European Union legislation is utterly shameful. This negligence has contributed very substantially to the pressure that led to the success of the Leave campaign. The fact that Labour and the other political parties have also been unaware of these facts and, if they were, certainly not been prepared to talk about them is further evidence that the political system in the UK is so much poorer than the British public must have.
Summary: South Africa has been plagued by corruption for about the same time that the UK has been plagued by austerity imposed on the poor by our right-wing governments. We don’t need to look for corruption as they find it in South Africa. Our system makes it very easy to transfer large sums of money from the public sector into private hands because of the way that our company laws are structured. Shareholders and Directors are able to walk away with large sums of money leaving pension deficits for the state to cope with. Combined with the widespread use of tax havens, many under British jurisdiction, the net effect is that the UK is effectively a highly corrupt country.
The resignation of Jacob Zuma as President of the Republic of South Africa promises a much better economic and social future for that country. Emerging economies in Africa are achieving growth rates in excess of 4% yet the RSA has been running at about one third of that level. In South Africa there growth is only slightly ahead of Zimbabwe, a widely acknowledged economic basket-case. Unemployment stands at an amazing 27%. As a country, it has considerable natural resources, including gold and diamonds as well as a large area with good agricultural potential. Yet the poor have been suffering dreadfully.
The remarkably poor economic performance of the RSA in lifting the poor, largely black population out of poverty has been very poor indeed. Much of this is attributed to a deep, embedded corruption masterminded by Jacob Zuma and probably involving the extremely wealthy Gupta family. Within South Africa it is believed that such interests have essentially captured the state economy for their own benefit.
At about the same time that Jacob Zuma became President of the RSA the Conservative/LibDem coalition came to power. That government and the subsequent Tory government instituted one of the harshest programs of austerity in the world. Since then the British economy has grown significantly less rapidly than the rest of the European Union. Indeed the growth rates most recently experienced by the EU are the highest for a decade at 2.8%. The effect of austerity has been to keep the UK growth rate substantially lower. Some hard-core Brexiteers claim this is a consequence of the UK being held back by the constraints of being part of the EU. They ignore that it doesn’t seem to have done any harm at all other EU member countries.
After the Brexit vote, the value of sterling collapse by about 15%. That had been predicted to provide a significant boost for growth in the UK. This has not materialised and it continues to be very much lower than the rest of the EU at about 1.4%.
This much poorer performance in the UK cannot be blamed on corruption of the same sort we clearly have in South Africa. In the UK it is generally accepted that large sums of money are not passed overtly between the government and major commercial organisations. In the UK there is no need to use illegal methods of becoming much richer. This is because the systems in the UK are already well designed to enable already wealthy and powerful people substantially richer.
To understand this we only need to look at the fiasco with Carillion. This company has just declared bankruptcy because of unrealistic estimates for major construction contracts. Very large debts have been left behind and the Pension Funds are underfunded by in excess of £1 billion. Only one fund out of the dozens that there are is in surplus. Unsurprisingly it is the fund that provides the pensions of Directors.
Very substantial sums of money were passed to shareholders and to the directors in the form of vast bonuses. The default of the company means that the state Pension Protection Fund will have to make up the very substantial difference. The net effect is that very large sums of money are being transferred to the private sector in the form of shareholders and company directors. Suppliers to these companies have virtually no chance of receiving any payments.
This is how corruption works in the UK. It effectively keeps down any growth and encourages austerity. Money which could have been invested in the growth of the UK has been diverted. Corruption in the UK is further compounded by the widespread use of tax havens to launder profits and keep ownership secret. The government have undertaken to sort this out and largely eliminate tax havens, many of which are directly under British control. The right-wing Tory government of course have very little interest on that and so surprise, surprise nothing has happened. The corruption that the use of these tax havens essentially is permitting continues unabated.