UKIP is the Teflon party in these European elections. However disorganised and anarchic they are, with no policies except a visceral hatred of the EU and immigrants, however vile the racist and sexist views of so many of its representatives, a significant section of the British electorate are quite prepared to ignore all that because they are not voting for UKIP but rather against the political Establishment which they perceive as having utterly failed them. Indeed the more the three main political parties gang up together in attacking UKIP, the more Farage revels in it as confirming his status as the anti-Establishment candidate. The way to destroy UKIP is for a political party to respond effectively and positively to the prevailing political mood sweeping Britain which, more than anything else, is anti-austerity. That is only reinforced by the fact that the elections in a week’s time highlight the perception of the EU under Merkel’s hegemony as burying the whole European region in austerity.
Read more “How to tackle UKIP” »
There is a story popular in Germany, and often repeated in the UK, that the Greeks are being punished for their grievous financial misdeeds and the virtuous Germans are teaching them a lesson which, painful as it may be, needs to be learnt. Whilst it is true that Greece (and Greece was far from alone in these matters) suffered from a poorly organised taxation system, corruption of the State by an ultra-rich elite, and capital flight to tax havens or investment hot-spots across the world, finger-wagging at Greece and moralising about debt hardly fits the record. There have been three crucial periods in the last 60 years when Germany was in deep financial difficulty and was bailed out by creditor countries……including Greece.
The first and most important was in 1953 when Germany’s post-war debt trap was lifted in London at a creditor’ conference in London. The enormous war reparations owed were halved and the repayment period was extended over 30 years. It is almost certain that the post-war German economic miracle would not have occurred or brought the country to global economic power status, had it not been for the London Debt Agreement. Greece, one of the countries overrun by the Nazis and having suffered grievously under their domination less than a decade before, was nevertheless party to this agreement. So why are Greece, Spain and Portugal being demonised now and debt forgiveness isn’t even on the agenda?
Read more “Why do we pick on the Greeks rather than the Germans?” »
.Osborne’s latest boast is that Britain’s GDP grew by nearly 2% in the year to last September, showing a strong recovery from the two previous years when the economy barely reached 1%. This is highly misleading for several reasons. Will it be sustained when it is based on the fragile foundations of consumer borrowing and house price inflation, and when business investment, wages, productivity and exports – all the really essential factors needed – are all flat? Even more important, this 2% growth is counted from a much lower level of output than would have been the case if Osborne austerity hadn’t stopped in its tracks the recovery already taking place in the middle and second half of 2010 as a result of Alistair Darling’s stimulus measures in 2009. If output had continued to rise after 2007 in line with previous trends, GDP would now be 20& higher than it is. Instead of preening himself with the 2% upturn, he should be humbly apologising for the 20% of output (worth nearly £300bn!) lost for good as a result of his ideologically-driven dogma of endless cutbacks. But humility and contrition are beyond Osborne.
Read more “Like Pinocchio’s nose, government fibs about the ‘recovery’ get bigger and bigger” »
To call it a grilling would be unfair to fried fish. It was a soft-centre velvet-glove exchange between decent establishment chaps which only confirmed just how feeble and inadequate the present system of so-called oversight of the security services really is. It is incredible that not once in the whole 90-minute encounter was the word Tempora mentioned, even though the hoovering up of unimaginable amounts of internet traffic from the transatlantic under-sea cables by GCHQ is at the heart of public concerns about the biggest potential breach in personal privacy in history. Worse, none of the three heads of MI5, MI6 or GCHQ showed any awareness that the public are right to be worried about how such a powerful capability might be used, or that the deployment of such a capacity beyond the scope of any existing law might show that the spymasters were simply out of control. Why were neither the ISC nor the cabinet nor the National Security Council never let into the secret about Tempora, which we would still know nothing about were it not for Snowden’s revelations? But the ISC stooges never even asked this!
Read more “Farcical ‘grilling’ of spooks before ISC proves urgent need for external independent committee of inquiry” »
Merkel notes quite correctly that youth unemployment is the biggest problem facing Europe, but doesn’t seem to get how she’s personally responsible for quite a lot of it. Hosting a EU conference in Berlin on the issue, partly to try to boost Germany’s poor public image abroad just 3 months before the German elections in which she could well lose to a Social Democrat-Green coalition, she lauded the German vocational system. It has certainly contributed to an unemployment rate among 16-24 year old Germans of only 7.5%, a third of the rate in the UK and a seventh of the rate in Spain and Italy. But she is wrong to suggest that German vocational training, which is accorded if not parity of esteem at least complementarity of status with academic training, is the only or even the main reason for relatively low joblessness among the young. The other reasons tell a very different story about German economic success which has real lessons for the UK.
Read more “Mrs. Merkel’s got quite a nerve to say ‘Copy us’” »
Europe is once again turning into a graveyeard for the Tories. They must be insane gratuitously to be stirring up opposition even within their own ranks over prolonged austerity, gay marriage and the EU. Labour is having a field day watching all this from the sidelines, but simply relying on your opponent’s mistakes is no way to show leadership at a critical turning point for the nation. And the gathering momentum on the Tory Right and in the Tory media, hysterical though much of it is, is clearly one such juncture. The polls indicate a small majority in favour of exiting the EU, but that is hardly surprising when the case for staying in, which is overwhelming, is hardly being articulated at all.
Read more “EU: when is Labour going to campaign in favour?” »
Climate destabilisation, like tax avoidance, is one of those bad things which governments wring their hands about, say they are deeply opposed to allowing this profoundly harmful phenomenon to flourish, and then proceed not only to do next-to-nothing to stop it, but actually themselves fan the flames to extend it. At the Earth Summit last June Obama, Cameron, Merkel and Putin didn’t even think it worthwhile to attend. At the monumental failure of the Doha climate change conference last month world leaders were far less interested in a sustainable planet than in sustainable growth, the biggest threat to climate stability. The pristine wildernesses of both the Arctic and Antarctica are now about to be defenestrated in a last wild global dash for fossil fuels.
Read more “Ironically low growth is about the only good prospect for climate change” »
It is almost incredible that faced with the very real likelihood of a slide into world slump, as Obama is now warning, Merkel continues to parrot the reactionary monetarist mantra that “there can be no growth through borrowing”. There can certainly be no growth through prolonged austerity, though she didn’t admit that. But leaving that aside, she totally fails to recognise that there is all the difference in the world between on the one hand borrowing to increase consumption, which is unwise at the best of times and utterly reprobate at the worst of times, and on the other hand borrowing to generate public investment which will create jobs and sustainable growth. That is what private business does all the time, borrowing on the basis that the investment is soundly based and will create jobs and growth.
Read more “Merkel isolated as preacher of reactionary austerity” »
It is almost incredible that after failure upon failure the monetarists have still not yet been run out of town. Even after the decisive anti-austerity presidential election in France a week ago, the ejection of all austerity-accommodating parties in Greece, and now the drubbing of the German Conservatives in North-Rhine Westphalia, it seems the best we can hope for from the Hollande-Merkel clash is a growth pact to run alongside an un-renegotiated fiscal austerity pact – a classic EU fudge since the former is not possible without a substantial easing of the latter. It almost defies belief that after every monetarist project has run into the ground – Fisher’s quantity theory of money, Friedman’s ‘natural’ rate of unemployment, Thatcher’s financial deregulation, Blair’s privatisation of services, Brown’s PFI, and now Osborne’s oxymoronic expansionary fiscal contraction – instead of being shamed by their successive humiliations, they still return to the charge with yet another canard. This time it’s supply-side reforms, code for yet further cuts in labour rights.
Read more “As Hollande meets Merkel, when will Left in UK take on monetarists?” »