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Saturday, 20 September 2014

Scotland say ney for now, Dont mourn organise !

Yesterday Scotland voted against independence. Today half the country are mourning, their hopes of a new state and it’s social democratic promise dashed. The other half are relieved, if perhaps not enthusiastically celebrating, the potential uncertainty removed; things will persist as before. We neither mourn nor celebrate. The scaremongering of the No campaign would likely have proved largely unfounded. So too would the promises of the Yes campaign. In reality our lives would have continued mostly as they did before in either event. We will trudge to the same jobs we hate along the same roads, through the same congestion on the same expensive transport. We’ll do so so we can pay our wages back to the capitalist class in the same shops, to pay rent to the same landlords and mortgages to the same banks. We’ll take our kids to the same schools with the same education system, when we’re ill we’ll wait to use the same hospitals. We’ll escape our jobs to the same parks, beaches, museums and pubs. An independent Scotland would in most respects have resembled the Scotland of the UK, a patriarchal, capitalist, environmentally destructive society. A country with the most unequal land ownership in the developed world – where 50% of the land is owned by just 432 individuals. A country dependent on North Sea oil for much of its exports – oil that must be left in the ground to prevent climate catastrophe. A country with huge poverty and huge wealth and little in the way of organised working class action to change that dynamic. And in so continuing to uphold the same institutions, the same structures of power, the same business interests, and the same political configuration, our fight against the state, capital and oppression continues. Social Movements It has become popular amongst some on the pro-independence to claim that even in defeat politics has been radically altered. People are engaged with politics for the first time, turnout was 85%. A new broad popular social movement is born, the referendum was never about a vote for the Nationalists (capital N1). The campaign they built to push for independence will now re-orient itself against the Scottish and British governments and push for material concessions, emboldened by how close they came and bringing newly radicalised people with them. But a high turnout in itself tells us very little of what will come next, the complacency that we have already changed politics is dangerous. Leaving aside the tactical mistake of offering the SNP the support they wanted to pass the referendum and then hoping to win concessions rather than making those concessions a precondition of support, this seems at best an optimistic prediction, which is far from certain to be realised. It is highly probable that the movement built to advance a radical case for independence will fail to maintain the unity it has shown pre-referendum in a post-referendum situation. A new left unity party (perhaps Left Unity itself) seems likely to form out of the Radical Independence Campaign and will have to compete for votes with the Scottish Green Party. The disintegration of the SSP last decade bodes ill for the lasting chances of that configuration. If the parliamentary left can regain even the position it held from 2003-2007 it will have done exceedingly well (in its own terms). Undoubtedly many from the radical independence movement will want to maintain extra-parliamentary organisation, though how much of it is truly independent of the parliamentary parties will be an open question. But as with the referendum itself elections have a tendency to draw activists away from direct struggle and towards themselves however good peoples’ intentions are. Perhaps the most debilitating effect of the referendum campaign was its draw away from other, more meaningful, sites of struggle – the boycott workfare campaign, anti-deportations and pro migrant work, environmental organising and so on. Of course, that is not to say that no independence campaigners continued their engagement with these causes, but no one has unlimited time and energy to contribute, and that expended on the referendum could have been better placed elsewhere. Ecology As the independence referendum moves into the past, other issues may start to regain their prominence. Foremost must be the commitment of politicians in Westminster and Holyrood to continuing extraction of Scotland’s share of North Sea oil. The independence debate was consistently shaped by the prospects for oil production and how the proceeds will be distributed. Even where criticism did exist and a call for a “green new deal” was made, the focus was to argue for renewables. Whilst greater use of renewable energy is to be welcomed, it is far from sufficient. As Jason Moore has highlighted energy revolutions of the past have always been additive and substitutive. Market logic plus intervention for renewables will only give us both renewables and fossil fuels. As alternative grow fossil fuels prices will fall and maintain their use alongside. Real decarbonisation of society requires the fuels be left in the ground and their value written off. You cannot build a “green” capitalism. You certainly cannot create it in time. There is too much money invested in fossil fuels – in drilling, in mining, in fracking. The ruling class will never voluntarily give up this wealth, or allow it to be simply voted away. “To survive we must act now” and “couple bleak reality with the utopian impulse” to demand a complete transformation of our society2. An independent Scotland would have relied heavily on fossil fuels – not least to maintain currency reserves and a positive balance of trade. The extraction of North Sea oil will instead continue to prop up the UK’s trade deficit. As part of a larger economy that dependence may now not be brought as clearly to the fore. But that reliance must be exposed, and it must be broken. That will be an expensive and difficult task, but one which we have no choice but to take up – there will be no future for Scotland or the UK if we do nothing. We must create the movement which makes that possible. Too much time has been spent on bourgeois constitutional questions while the rich consolidate their wealth and power, impose austerity and hardship and leave the planet to burn safe that adaptation will be good enough for them. So tonight, drown your sorrows. Take time to regain your energy and when you’re ready come back to join us. The better society that had been pinned on independence doesn’t need a new state. Keep talking to your neighbours and your workmates. We have a world to win and only our own working class self-activity and organisation will secure it. 1. We’ve discussed previously the obfuscation of “good” and “bad” nationalism and the left’s claim that independence has nothing to do with nationalism. In our opinion both yes and no campaigns de facto represent competing nationalisms, whatever their intentions to the contrary. with thanks and solidarity with statement from Edinburgh Anarchist Federation

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Why as an English socialist I’m supporting Scottish independence

It may sound odd and not my right to have a view on this and I accept those who will say it’s nothing to do with me but... I couldn’t help commenting and giving my opinion on the huge debate that is nearing its conclusion and the day of reckoning arrives for the actual vote if Scotland is to stay as part of the UK or will it choose independence. I look at the question as a socialist through the eyes of whose interest will benefit from independence if any. Of course there is not socialism or anything near it on the ballot paper come Thursday but you are not voting on if you like the SNP or Alex sallmond either. I think there is a big argument to be made that Scotland does not control its own destiny and has little in the way of powers to control its own direction and economic policies they are mostly decided and voted on in London at Westminster. I am a strong believer in the right to self determination as a socialist I believe it is down to the Scottish people and them alone to decide how they run their society. Indeed it’s even excited me living down south the debate up in Scotland of how can we run society better what could we do differently and make things fairer. All this has ignited a burning desire for change in many who believe in a hope over fear campaign is what will win out come Thursday. The negative campaign of the official NO campaign and its scaremongering tactics has backfired hugely on them as only recently a poll showed for the first time the Yes campaign was slightly in the lead. Now I’m not saying that independence will or won’t happen simply stating why I would support independence if I had a vote. If anything it could spark thought down here in England to begin to think how we can change things for the better. "After Thursday, Britain will never be the same again," the Observer newspaper accurately declared four days before the Scottish referendum. The referendum is on a knife edge, but whichever side wins, Britain's ruling elite will have suffered a battering which will leave it permanently damaged. If the Yes campaign wins it will be an enormous blow to the power and prestige of British capitalism. But regardless of the outcome, the independence campaign demonstrates graphically the power of working class people - the majority - to win victories even when the whole of the establishment is straining every nerve to try and inflict a defeat on you. In the week before the referendum - from the moment it became clear that the Yes vote had a chance of winning - 'Project Fear' has become 'Project Terror'. An avalanche of threats from major banks and corporations has rained down on the people of Scotland, promising hell-fire and damnation if they vote for independence. Virtually the whole of the capitalist media and establishment have been united in their desperate attempts to prevent a Yes vote. At the same time, for millions of Scots the referendum has become a means to express their anger at austerity and the capitalist politicians. Growing numbers of workers in England and Wales have also begun to urge the Scots on to vote Yes. They hear Cameron saying it would "break his heart" and grasp what a blow it would be to the same capitalist politicians who are implementing savage austerity in England and Wales. Now I’m no nationalist and neither are my family who my dad’s mum’s brothers family who were always solid labour voters are now backing independence with the SNP. These sorts of changes you simply can’t ignore. The Scottish referendum answers decisively the myth that working class people and young people are 'apathetic' and not interested in politics. Wit the vote being granted to 16 year olds the young have been as much of this debate as anyone else and why not its their futures too which are being discussed. I don’t expect to wake up on Friday morning if Scotland has voted for independence for socialism to be declared it can only be one step towards that idea but to dish out a blow to the British state which has gone through wars invasions and all sorts of awful things in its history then I am all for that. To see David Cameron’s face if Scotland leaves the union on his watch will be a picture to behold. 97 % of people who are entitled to vote in Scotland have registered with the turnout on Thursday set to be in the 80s of % there is a groundswell of feeling of change is on its way. The hatred of the capitalist politicians has reached new highs in Scotland. The most recent YouGov polls show that Cameron's trust rating is minus 46% in Scotland. So hated are the Tories in Scotland (with only one MP) that the leader of the Scottish Tories publicly pleaded with Scottish voters to vote No - by promising that it is safe to do because the Tories won't win the general election! Cameron came close to do the same thing, saying that his government "would not be around for ever". Prime Minister David Cameron survives the fall-out from a defeat on the referendum. The loss of prestige for a British Imperialism – who once held one quarter of the globe – would be disastrous. From the US to Europe – and in particular in Catalonia – the outcome of a Yes majority would introduce a new period of instability and challenge to capitalist elite There has been huge anger, including among journalists and employees, at the BBC’s scandalous partisan role in acting as an uncritical mouthpiece for Project Fear. Any pretence at impartiality and balance has gone as the corporation has acted in the interests of British capitalism in its time of need. Both the Scotsman newspaper as well as the FT has formally come out for a No vote this week. Only one paper, the Sunday edition of the Herald, is backing yes, thus far. Even former ‘lefts’ like George Galloway have become advocates of Project Terror. Galloway, incredibly, claimed on the BBC’s Question Time that Britain had now “escaped from austerity”. He’s certainly not living on the same planet as working class people including in his own constituency of Bradford West, who face savage attacks on their wages and benefits by the Con-Dems – which Labour have promised to continue. The “economic Armageddon”, “flight of capital” and “corporate exodus” line of attack – as opposed to the pleas from the discredited Cameron and Miliband – has shown some signs of having an effect. There may have been some movement in the polls away from Yes in the last couple of days. The blackmail, intimidation and scaremongering can, if it goes unanswered, raise doubts in the minds of some who have been thinking about voting yes. Indeed, polls regularly show that most people think that an independent Scotland will be worse off economically. For example, the YouGov poll on Thursday reported that 48% thought that Scotland would be worse off compared to 37% who believed it would be better off under independence. When asked if they personally would be better or worse off, 42% said worse off and only 21% better off. This reflects the impact of Project Fear on the one hand, and the lack of belief that the SNP’s policy of continuing with pro-business policies, and the austerity that goes with it, can offer any way out for the working class. Only Scotland can decide the outcome on Thursday no matter what the media down south try and whip up I wish Scotland luck and solidarity and hope they make the right choice for themselves at the end of the day. I will be watching with interest from down south.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The curious case of British fascism

In Britain Fascism has always been a bit of an odd mixture and today is no different. To say there is a fascist movement at all is tricky but there has certainly been spikes in support for the far right and other such extremists in this country. Like its continental counterparts, inter-war British Fascism had deep roots in earlier movements of the 'Radical Right', particularly after 1880. These groups came from the political right. They drew much of their strength from sections of the British establishment. They were helped in this by the decline of liberalism, previously the dominant political ideology amongst the ruling classes of Britain and Europe. As Karl Marx famously said the ruling ideology of the ruling class is then seen as the overall ideology of society in perception anyway. As someone who identifies himself as a socialist and on the left of politics I am naturally a opponent of the far right and fascism in whichever form it takes and indeed in Britain it can take some very odd forms from euro sceptism to more extreme versions of white supremacy . But to imagine a far right government in Britain which is not beyond the realms of imagination however slim the chances are today is still something to be concerned about. The first year in power of a far-right government would most probably see a withdrawal from NATO, an exit from the European Union and an end to all overseas aid spending. Foreign massacres would be dismissed as "savagery". Actual military spending, however, would be doubled. There always seems to be a military element to the far right focusing heavily on a national defence and protecting what is "ours". One of the problems a government of this sort would have is that although the British people seemingly like pomp and ceremony, they don't much go in for compulsory pomp and ceremony. People of the Left recoil at widespread enthusiasm for the Royal Family, while forgetting that a good deal of it is based on little more than a detestation of the political class. The Royals are quite obviously establishment figures - they are the establishment - but when set against politicians there is a widespread belief that they are somehow less a part of the ruling class than Parliament is. Such a dynamic only works, however, so long as the monarchy is not viewed as an extension of the government. With regard to the military, huge hostility would be whipped-up, with the aid of the media, towards any figure who publicly criticised military spending or the increasing deployment of troops to quell internal unrest and break strikes. Such people would be branded "unpatriotic" and denounced as Communists. Several military figures would probably enter the Cabinet within the first year of government. All this sounding scary enough? While we can’t imagine this happening now and some even think the Tories are fascist the term has to be carefully used and in some ways it is over used and this helps the term become normalised. As this excellent website with lecture notes from a discussion on fascism and anti fascism brilliantly entails "British Fascism's first impetus lay in an ultra-conservative response to the social consequences of the First World War and the rise of Bolshevism. Mandle estimated 60% of the Fascist elite had been members of the armed forces, while over 40% had seen active service in the First World War [W.F. Mandle, 1966, pp 362-80; D.L. Baker, 1982, pp 39-72] The Bolshevik Revolution traumatised those who already held anti-Semitic and anti-Capitalist conspiracy theories, fears further aroused by the appearance throughout Europe of the (forged) Protocols of the Elders of Zion in 1921. [N. Cohen, 1967, p169-70; C. Holmes, 1979, pp 49-85; idem 1977, pp 13-20; G. Lebzelter, 1979, pp 49-85; H. Blume, 1971, pp 248-50).] Initial post-war industrial unrest further heightened their paranoia and gave rise to a number of middle class and Imperial defence 'Unions'. The, post-war era also witnessed the rise of a new group of 'Diehards', an unofficial parliamentary group who admired their pre-war aristocratic forebears and campaigned for 'true conservatism' against 'Bolshevist Labour Socialism'. Thurlow accurately sums them up as 'an unarmed paramilitary group......a cross between an adult boy scout movement and a slightly more sinister defence force and strike breaking organisation' [Thurlow, 1987 p24]" For many we come across fascism in Britain with the battle of cable st in London and this famous victory for the anti fascist movement at the time. Many see Sir Oswald Mosley as the first real fascist party leader in Britain and indeed his party named the British Union of fascists BUF was seen as historically a breakthrough for the far right. The BUF was formed in October 1932 by Sir Oswald Mosley. Mosley's manifesto The Greater Britain was issued in 1932. BUF claimed to draw its inspiration from Mussolini's Italy. Mosley had founded the New Party in 1931. He had accused the 'Old Gangs' of Conservative, Labour, and Liberal politicians of abject failure to solve the problems afflicting liberal democracy and capitalism in crisis. Thurlow considers the BUF to have been 'intellectually, the most coherent and rational of all Fascist parties in Europe in its early years.' (Fascism in Britain, 1986, p93). He had finally left orthodox democratic political life when he resigned from the Labour party when his proposals to cure unemployment (the Mosley Memorandum- approved by Keynes) were rejected in May 1930 by a cabinet subcommittee chaired by the ultra-orthodox chancellor Philip Snowden. Mosley was expelled from the LP in March 1931 first issuing a Manifesto entitled A National Policy, which contained all the elements necessary for the founding of an alternative political party. Beatrice Webb dismissed the New Party, suggesting that it 'will never get born alive, it will be a political abortion'. (Benewick p73) In 1932, having lost most of the establishment figures in the New Party Mosley founded the BUF, claiming that only authoritarian leadership could respond to the immanent crisis of the British state. The youth movement which was founded drove away many of Mosley's more orthodox supporters - particularly John Strachey a former Labour Party ally. Mosley acquired a personal bodyguard - the so-called 'Biff Boys' after an attack on him in Glasgow in September 1931. By the end of 1934 the BUF's violence had drawn the attention of the authorities and Mosley was forced to exert more central discipline on the movement. Mosley's most important 'advantage' was that he was able to attract a number of formerly unattached intellectuals and anti-Semites into his BUF. These included A.K. Chesterton (journalist), Alexander Raven Thompson (intellectual) and William Joyce (orator). This by the end of 1934 Mosley's BUF was exhibiting many of the classic characteristics of an authentic Fascist Party. A leadership cult centered on an a charismatic orator who promised that he and his Fascists were the precursors of the 'new man'; a blackshirted uniformed paramilitary 'defence' force; an ideology and programme which proclaimed the 'corporate state' as its core economic policy; and the use of extreme anti-Semitic propaganda. Why did authentic Fascism have to wait until 1932 to emerge in Britain? The reason lies partly in the crisis engendered by the continuing rise of Bolshevism in the Soviet Union and Fascism and Nazism Italy and Germany, coupled with the failure of vision amongst orthodox British politicians of both right and left when faced with the great depression of the early 1930s. Things looked grim for British democracy between 1931 and 1933. During this period the politicians remained under attack from both the left and right for their manifest 'failure of imagination'. Disillusion with Parliament from all parts of the political spectrum was becoming common by 1931. Aldus Huxley wrote 'Wouldn't it be possible to bring a bill of Impeachment against a few of the old politicians who have landed us in this mess by their criminal negligence....(Skidelsky, Mosley, p227) Even Churchill, in his Oxford Romanes Lecture of 19th June 1930 spoke of how Parliament was better at handling 'political questions' which had dominated the 19th century, but was much less capable of handling 'economic issues' which had afflicted the twentieth century. He further argued that such issues should be handled by an economic sub-parliament: 'free altogether from party exigencies and composed of persons possessing special qualifications in economic matters.' (Skidelsky, pp 227-228). This anti politics feeling does appear a little similar to today in 2014 where turnouts in elections is falling year on year and anti political feelings are high with anger at all politicians of the Westminster variety in particular seeing their poll share fall. What was Mosley's role in the rise and decline of the BUF? • Mosley was well known as a politician and this drew initially favorable publicity • Mosley also spent over £200,000 of his own wealth on the movement. • He appealed to sections of the 'war generation' of 1914-18 and youth. • Robert Skidelsky has pointed to Mosley's significance as a public speaker and propagandist. • He provided the main arguments of the BUF and published them in 3 books and around 100 articles. • Mosley contributed to the failure of the BUF by allowing violence and anti-Semitism to take over - • He allowed the bureaucratic 'yes men' to organise the movement and isolate him from reality Mosley's initial success as Fascist leader was astonishing. While his impressive mass-meetings proved his charismatic appeal to the people, he also appeared to be capable of evoking sympathetic response from the political establishment. Right-Wing aristocrats such as Rothermere, Nuffield and Lady Houston were associated with his movement. The January Club, founded in January 1934, provided a platform for Fascist speakers, and Mosley addressed various meetings of industrialists and businessmen who favoured his political campaign. After Rothermere's withdrawal, however, these connections seemed to have cooled off. [cf. G. Lebzelter, Political Anti-Semitism in England 1918-1939, and p104] The BUF began life at least in part as a homage to Mussolini's brand of Fascism. In a parliamentary debate of 6 June 1946 the Home Secretary stated that correspondence between the former Italian ambassador in London, Count Grandi, and Mussolini had revealed that between 1933 and 1935 the BUF had received about £60,000 per annum from the Italian government. No similar assistance was claimed to have come from Berlin, and no factual documentation was then produced to prove that the BUF had indeed received financial support from abroad. But the BUF was also almost unique among Fascist movement in that its origin was marked by the publication of a coherent political programme and doctrine, in Oswald Mosley's The Greater Britain in October 1932. This outlined the rationale behind Mosley's revolt and the policies needed in his view to reverse Britain's decline. Although ideology came to play a less important role in the movement after 1935, Mosley nevertheless concentrated his energies in this sphere and in communicating his message to the British public, delegating administrative and financial organisation to others. [R. Thurlow, Fascism in Britain, p145.] Today we have organisations like the EDL, BNP, Britain First and loosely UKIP with fascist’s elements or outright fascists as members. Allot of these groups long for a bygone day of Great Britain being a world leader and being that proud strong nation once again whether that to leave the bureaucratic EU or to send all immigrants home which is a common idea of the far right today in Britain. The idea of blaming certain religions or races for economic problems is a strong theme in far right policies much like in the 1930's Jews and “foreigners " were blamed by the far right for Britain’s economic woes much like today mass immigration from the continent is seen as a barrier to British jobs. Gordon Browns speech during the time of the last labour government of British jobs for British workers fed the likes of the BNP and other far right sympathisers nicely and provided them with much needed ammunition to blame immigrants for Britains housing and jobs crisis. The link to the nation and race is cleverly intertwined in far right ideas taking some of the popular sounding left wing ideas through out the past like nationalisation of big parts of the economy has lead many working class people to be drawn towards such movements in the past. The neoliberal dominated institutions of politics, media and even economics have made strident efforts to rebrand the Financial Crisis – a clear crisis of the private sector and neoliberalism itself – into a public sector crisis. This scapegoating has affected a number of groups, but in recent months, the narrative on immigration has been ratcheted up out of all proportion to the size of the issue. I have written in detail on the reality of immigration, so will not rehearse here. In summary, the UK has a lower immigrant population than almost any ‘developed’ nation, these immigrants are mostly assessed via a Points Based System, only 7% are asylum seekers, and only 33% of asylum claims are accepted. There is no open door. Finally, the immigrant population does not have access to a vast majority of the benefits available to UK citizens, the benefits they do receive are nowhere near the same value as those received by UK citizens and they are a third less likely to claim benefits than UK citizens. Nevertheless, constant media and political attention is expended on the immigration issue – with almost no time asking the question – why are people coming here? Many migrants are economic migrants, and those who are not are political migrants – both are systemic, not personal issues. To argue in favour of ‘closing the door’ on people fleeing the system our country is so pivotal in exporting around the globe, often by force – what kind of morality if this? This is the national equivalent of first class guiding their lifeboats away from the steerage passengers after the sinking of the Titanic. The problem is the sinking ship, not the poor bastards swimming for their lives. These days British fascism seems unpopular and relatively unsupported but we must always be on our guard. I wrote this piece with just a few thoughts in my head of how we seem to be following a similar pattern to the 1930's of economic crisis followed by deep anti political feelings of mass apathy in many areas around the globe. In conclusion I’d say British fascism has a certain character which we must be aware that it can take various forms at different times With quotes and extracts taken from

Monday, 8 September 2014

Westminster panics as pro independence campaign gains ground

With little over 2 weeks until the referendum in Scotland which could be one of the biggest referendum yet in terms of its potential impact will take place. Scotland will vote on whether it is to go it alone or stay with the UK. Of course it isn’t as simple as that for much the pro independence campaign has won significant concessions and although devolution max was not on the ballot paper it’s highly likely that will pretty much be what they get even if a No vote wins I suspect. For me who doesn’t live in Scotland watching this from afar hasn’t been easy to grasp the issues but if I had a vote to ditch the Tories forever that would tempt me too. The polls make interesting reading for sure with the pro independence campaign pulling an ahead 51 to 48 in one of the polls that is least favorable to them so something is afoot. A YouGov poll for the Sunday Times over the weekend was the first mainstream study to put Yes Scotland narrowly ahead. The poll of 1,084 people, carried out between 2 and 5 September, suggested that, of those who have made up their mind, 51% planned to back independence, while 49% intended to vote no. The cross-party Better Together campaign had previously retained a lead in polls, often reaching double digits. The fact that many who the polls have missed those who don’t normally vote are messing with the polling figures is making for some very worried politicians. Even the Queen today who isn’t known for making political statements has come out today in the papers in support of Britain remaining a union of nations. Better Together campaign has denied plans to set out a timetable for giving more powers to Scotland were a sign of panic. Alistair Darling was speaking after a poll suggested the pro-UK campaign had lost its lead. Chancellor George Osborne has promised to unveil a timetable for further devolution if voters in Scotland reject independence. The SNP has dismissed the proposal as a last-minute "bribe". Mr. Osborne said on Sunday that a "plan of action" would be set out in the next few days to give "more powers to Scotland; more tax powers, more spending powers, more powers over the welfare state". BBC Scotland's political correspondent Glenn Campbell has reported that a new body will also be set up to hammer out more powers for Holyrood if there is a "No" vote on 18 September. 'Already announced' Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr. Darling acknowledged that the referendum race was "clearly very tight" but said there was no panic. He added: "We are in a position now where every voter in Scotland could potentially tip the balance in the referendum. "But I am confident we will win because we do have a very strong, positive vision of what Scotland can be, both in terms of the opportunities and the security that come from being part of the UK, a strengthened Scottish Parliament, with more powers which is what people want and you can do that without having to break up the country to do it." FPRIVATE "TYPE=PICT; ALT=line" Analysis: Glenn Campbell, BBC Scotland political correspondent Whether it's a committee, a commission or a conference - the pro-union parties plan to create a new body to agree extra powers in the event of a 'No' vote. It would be expected to report before the 2015 general election. The chancellor promised more detail in the next few days. The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, will tell the TUC today that the process should begin right after the referendum. It's understood a prominent person has already been identified to convene the group. It would consider the blueprints for the further devolution of income tax and some welfare measures produced by the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats and be open to ideas from wider Scottish society. The SNP would also be asked to contribute. The first minister, Alex Salmond, said the proposal was a "panicky" attempt to "bribe" Scots as opinion polls tighten, with one suggesting the Yes campaign may have edged ahead. Whatever the result on 18 September there has been a political earthquake people in Scotland are talking about their country their future and the type of society they want. This feeling is not going away anytime soon. It’s hilarious to watch the Westminster clowns running around like headless chickens worried about their own legacy if Scotland does indeed decide to go it alone. The ramifications are huge. I'm not saying the Yes campaign will win but the better together campaign has failed hugely and has ran a negative fear mongering campaign from the start. Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney told the BBC that it was a fair assessment of the polls to say the Yes campaign remained behind in general, but said his experience was that undecided voters were moving to yes by a factor of two to one. He added: "The movement is in our favor and the campaign is exciting an enormous amount of interest and activity and participation on the ground across Scotland. I think it is the formidable strength of the 'Yes' campaign that is motivating that." Referring to Mr. Osborne's announcement, Mr. Swinney said: "There is nothing new being offered this week. We may well get a timetable but the substance, the actual powers, the things that matter, Alistair Darling made absolutely crystal clear yesterday in contradicting George Osborne, that on the substance there will be absolutely nothing new. "The second point is that in 1979 Scotland was told vote 'No' in the referendum and you'll get a stronger parliament and what we got was a Conservative government for 18 years that we never voted for, industrial devastation and no parliament. "So I think the moral of the story of recent history in Scotland is if you want a guarantee of strong powers for the Scottish Parliament you have to vote 'Yes' in the referendum a week on Thursday." BBC political correspondent Ben Wright said the outcome of the referendum now looked "utterly uncertain". All to play for then chaps. The next week and a bit will be very interesting indeed.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

East Herts. District Council fails to meet social housing target

I live in a town called Ware in East Hertfordshire. A small town with around25 thousand habitants. But there is a growing waiting list for affordable homes and social housing in particular I am just part of a number chasing fewer and fewer homes. I am registered blind having lost my sight 10 years ago I’d love my own place affordable convenient and suitable for my needs. But currently I’m stuck on a dead end waiting list with little to no chance of getting anything from the council never mind privately renting or buying which is both totally out of the question with my low paid job and not huge money behind me. I am passionate about campaigning for new housing. I feel there is a big need for greater numbers of housing and not just for the rich but also for those who are seeing their wages shrink and their savings go no where. I work part time and still live at home with my mum and brother which is ok but not how I want to live for the rest of my life. So I was intrigued to read an article in our local paper online today. In the Hertfordshire Mercury currently the only source of local news online anyhow to local residents of Ware and Hertford ran with the story about social housing today. I will republish below you can read more about this article and further excellent local pieces at: “A call has been made for East Herts Council to provide more social housing to tackle the “extensive” waiting list of people in need. Councillor John Wing asked the executive to take further action at its meeting in Wallfields, Hertford, tonight (September 2). He said: “We have an extensive waiting list for social housing in the district. “I would like to see some work being done to identify ways in which we might be able to promote the building of additional social housing in the district to go some way towards addressing the sizeable waiting list we’ve got.” The meeting had earlier heard that the council had failed to deliver its target of 200 affordable homes in the district in the 2013-14 year, with just 76 being built. This was attributed to delays in the construction of private homes, which are sometimes agreed on condition that affordable homes are included as part of the development. It was also noted that there had been delays in building on sites proposed by housing associations to accommodate affordable homes. It was anticipated that those projects with planning permission would be completed in 2014-15. Councillor Mike Carver, the executive member for strategic planning and transport, said developers were usually required to supply up to 40 per cent of social housing with private homes. He said: “The key is ensuring we get in the development the right proportionality for the district. “In the previous government we had a significant push for single dwellings for single persons. “That’s created an excess of stock in certain areas and minimisation in others. “That, we are addressing through the local plan.” Councillor Linda Haysey, the executive member for health, housing and community support, pointed out that council land had been sold to housing associations to build on for just £1. She said: “It’s the cost of the land which makes building so very expensive in this area.””

Monday, 18 August 2014

The long slow death of the great British Pub

I come to you all with sad news. Every eek 10 pubs close in the UK if this trend continues we will not have many pubs left in 10 20 40 years time. This for me is a tragedy. I know some of you may be glad your partners will not be heading out to the pub for much longer but this is a trend and one that is not all together positive. The drinking culture in this country has changed drastically in recent times. The days of a social drink with your friends is dieing off with today’s young people I’m afraid. With many young people growing up going out or staying in just to get drunk not enjoy their drink and socialise and meet people. It’s a speed thing where the faster you get drunk the better for many. For me this is alien. I do like my drink I won’t deny this but for me it’s a social thing. The chance to meet new people talks to regulars and discuss the days news, politics, sport and for me football in particular is a great help for someone who is not naturally a confident person and has lots and lots of friends. I may go out a few times a week to drink and meet people for me its not so much about the drink or the quantity or the alcohol percentage its who I meet and the overall pub experience. I often see it as a place to escape and chill out and I do think this social aspect has been lost in many of today’s drinkers. Much of the decline of the pub trade can be linked to higher taxes, higher rents and cheaper and cheaper drinks that can be brought in supermarkets. For example I can buy a pack of 4 fosters in my local Tesco for £3.50 while in my local pub a brewery owned tenancy I wouldn’t even be able to afford one pint of Fosters. Ok I live in Ware not far from London a fairly affluent area some may say but even around here there is poverty and many surviving on the local food bank and welfare. The disposal income and the amount of cash in their pocket is reducing all the time with the cost of living going up and up and wages standing still and quite often going backwards in many case’s. So what can be done to help pubs and enable the industry to survive and a great British tradition saved?? Well I think there is much that can be done by government in terms of tax breaks. With local councils they can be more helpful in terms of the local rates being looked attend a fairer local rates scheme should be considered. I do think the decline of the British pub coincides with the similar decline of the high street I don’t think this fact can be dismissed. So I will keep loyal to the pubs around my area and the people I know working hard to keep them a place for all. I just find it incredibly sad we are letting the pub trade go to the wall. It’s not too late to save it but a country full of Weatherspoons as cheap as they are is not my ideal scenario. We do still need our local independent pubs big and small they make a town and a city what it is. They should be the vocal point of the community a place for all. Do support your local pub and the local ales which are also on the decline sadly. Let’s reverse this trend and make pubs a cool place to be again where the beer is good and the atmospheres are good and work for all.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Anti semitic feelings on the rise, how this has happened

So a lot of bad feeling is out there right now understandably at what Israel has been doing in the Gaza strip but too many dangerous generalisations have been happening too which need challenging. The main one for me is that Israel is a Jewish state so when attacking Israel a a vocal minority seem to be unable to distinguish between Israel and the Jewish religion and think that Israel is in fact a Jewish state, of course it is not. It’s a dangerous road of thinking its linking the two together to create a myth a agenda I have always found. The idea of a potential Jewish state is viewed by some people (even in Israel) as a positive development. Israel is not a theocracy; however, it is governed by the rule of law as drafted by a democratically elected parliament. It is informed by Jewish values and adheres to many Jewish religious customs (such as holidays), but this is similar to the United States and other nations that are shaped by the Judeo-Christian heritage and also have expressly religious elements (e.g., church-state separation in the U.S. does not preclude the recognition of Christmas as a holiday). Israel has no state religion however, and all faiths enjoy freedom of worship, yet it is attacked for its Jewish character, whereas the Arab states that all have Islam as their official religion are regarded as legitimate. The Jewish people are a nation with a shared origin, religion, culture, language, and history. And why shouldn't the Jewish people have a state? No one suggests that Arabs are not entitled to a nation (and they have not one, but twenty-one) of their own or Swedes or Germans, or that Catholics are not entitled to a state (Vatican City) headed by a theocrat (the Pope). To suggest that Zionism, the nationalist movement of the Jewish people, is the only form of nationalism that is illegitimate is pure bigotry. It is especially ironic that the Jewish nation should be challenged given that Jewish statehood preceded the emergence of most modern nation-states by thousands of years. It is also not unusual that one community should be the majority within a nation and seek to maintain that status. In fact, this is true in nearly every country in the world. Moreover, societies usually reflect the cultural identity of the majority. India and Pakistan were established at the same time as Israel through a violent partition, but no one believes these nations are illegitimate because one is predominantly Hindu and the other has a Muslim majority, or that these nations shouldn't be influenced by those communities (e.g., that cows in India should not be treated as sacred). In the United States, a vigorous debate persists over the boundaries between church and state. Similar discussions regarding "synagogue and state" are ongoing in Israel, with philosophical disagreements over whether Israel can be a Jewish and a democratic state, and practical arguments over Sabbath observance, marriage and divorce laws, and budgets for religious institutions. Nevertheless, most Jews take for granted that Israel is, and must remain, a Jewish state. Arab citizens also understand that Israel is a Jewish state and, while they might prefer that it was not, they have still chosen to live there (nothing prevents Arabs from moving to any of the 180-odd non-Jewish states in the world). Both Jews and Arabs realize that if Jews cease to be a majority in Israel, Israel will no longer have a Jewish character or serve as a haven for persecuted Jews, and that is one of the elements underlying peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.