Sunday, 13 October 2013

Leveson and Regulation of the Press

The press are still at it. Wittering on about how important they are to a free democratic society as if anyone still believed anything they read in the papers. I've got some news for them. We are increasingly getting our news from the internet and social media. But they still go on in their precious way about being the guardians of freedom despite being controlled, as I've said before by a few self important families or individuals. About the only things they are really good for is telling us what all the other media told us yesterday, mopping up large spillages and training puppies where and where not to piss.

If the press are so important in holding governments to account then that is really a case for giving them fewer powers, because they have usurped the role of democracy and the democratic process. Governments should be being held to account by the democratic process and if the press are doing that job then it is surely the democratic process which needs to be more powerful and not the press.

And when it comes to holding institutions to account, where were the press during the phone hacking that went on for years until it eventually had to come to the surface because it jeopardised a murder investigation? Many of the papers did it and most of them knew. Where was the holding to account when it came to holding their own to account? Criminal conduct was ignored because knowing which celebrity was kissing which other celebrity was clearly in the public interest, or so they would have us believe. Going through pop stars' bins was vital to uncovering … I'm not sure what.

But I've never seen a 'kiss and tell' story published by a newspaper, even a 'quality' newspaper, exposing the peccadilloes of the proprietor or editor of another paper. They must all be real paragons of virtue. But they all knew about Robert Maxwell's conduct and published not a sniff of it until he died falling off a luxury yacht and the workers, as usual, were left without a pension. Where was the holding to account? As I said, they all knew.

Just as they all knew about the systematic corruption of police and other public officials by many newspapers, but said not a word until it all came crashing down around their ears at Leveson. Where was the holding to account when it came to their own? Nowhere in sight, that's where.

So I say again, I'd rather governments were held to account by people I have elected to do the job rather than a troop of Tory 'grandees' wielding more power than they should have and exercising it in their own interests. They want to be above the law and not have their conduct regulated by law. But they have had many opportunities to put their house in order and they are being offered what should be their last chance to act responsibly. They should be told, 'Take it or leave it', and if they won't commit to behaving responsibly and having an oversight body which regulates that behaviour, then there should be legislation to make sure they do. It will take a 60% vote in both houses of Parliament and in the Scottish Parliament to change the deal they are being offered, and to be honest, if all of that lot agrees you're no good then chances are you're bloody awful. They should sign up, and sign up right now.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Leveson and a Free Press

I see that a lot of press people are unhappy with the regulation proposals following on from the Leveson Enquiry so let me throw in my tuppence worth.

We all support a free press, but the fact of the matter is that the United Kingdom hasn't had a free press for many years. It has always been totally under the control of a few powerful families who exercise that control in a completely scurrilous way. They have absolutely no problem in publishing half truths and complete falsehoods to the ruination of peoples' lives and for the sake of, and in the name of, something that will be wrapping a fish supper tomorrow. Provided always that it makes them money.

They are completely undemocratic, setting the agenda that their masters want and even claiming to decide who governs the country, if we are to believe the 'Sun wot won it' headlines. And who wouldn't believe the Sun.

All that is asked of them is that they stay within the law and tell the truth. Is that so very difficult for them. Those are the same rules that the rest of a free society seems to have few problems with. But they want to be completely outwith the law, they want to ride roughshod over everyone else's rights not to be defamed because they know that few if any ordinary people can afford to go to law against them.

So however distasteful, it has become necessary to rein their excesses, and it is only their excesses that are being restricted, because if we don't exercise some sort of democratic control over law-breakers and corrupters in the press and everywhere else then we risk losing democracy itself. But perhaps that is the ultimate objective of the press barons. They want to exercise that ultimate power that ordinary people having a right to vote denies them.

Royal Mail Privatisation

Any good neo-liberal economist will tell you that the value of anything is simply what someone else is prepared to pay for it.

So as the shares of the Royal Mail go on sale today we can know exactly what they were worth using the preferred theory of value of Cameron and his hedge fund and banker pals.  And knowing what they were worth and knowing what they were sold for it is easy to see that this was a major robbery of the taxpayer to benefit the already discredited financial system of the City of London.

And the saddest part is that it is ordinary working people who will have to fork out the difference in the form of cuts to schools, hospitals and other public services which could have been funded by that difference.  It's a bloody disgrace and an affront to all of the people who already dug deep to bail out the banks.

This was our Royal Mail and come independence it will be again. I only hope that our government, once we grasp the thistle, has the balls to take our share of it back into public ownership with minimal compensation for the greedy pigs who stole it.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Horse-Racing on Good Friday and the Christian Churches.

I'm not a Christian, nor am I a particular fan of horse-racing but I am a fan of quirky traditions. It is, therefore, with some regret that I heard on the radio today that the powers that be are to consider having horse-racing on Good Friday.

Good Friday has always been a no racing date in the racing calendar.  This was out of respect for the Christians and was intended to commemorate the soldiers gambling for the clothes of Christ at the foot of the cross.

I think this proposal should be resisted (even by us old atheists).  I know it's a bit quaint in today's climate of profit maximisation but there's nothing much wrong with being a bit quaint and quirky now and then.

Syria and the Crown Prerogative

It seems I was wrong in my last musings and we are not to go to war in Syria, a bloody good thing if you ask me. But there are other really beneficial outcomes from Big Dave Cameron's major parliamentary blunder. The power of the Prime Minister now and in the future has been seriously undermined, as has the power of the Crown prerogative, because unless I'm seriously mistaken, (which has been known to happen), it will be virtually impossible now for the Government to exercise the Crown prerogative to take us unwilling into a foreign war without the consent of Parliament.

I'm very happy that, at long last, the back benches have found a bit of backbone and that they are starting, in some small way, to represent the views of the people who elected them to do just that.  Long may it continue.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Syria, Scotland and the UK Government

As Parliament sits today in emergency session to discuss the merits of military intervention in Syria subject to confirmation that chemical weapons have been used, I hope they will consider the matter with some gravity. The usual response that we must back up our American allies isn't good enough. There is no doubt about the response of France. They are completely gung ho because they desperately need influence in the middle east because their oil leases in Libya are in the pocket of a jacket that's hanging on a very shaky nail.

One approach might be to consider that if we intervene militarily then the lives of some of our people will be lost. That is inevitable, whether it be in the theatre of war or at home when the Syrian people exact their revenge by terror attacks in the UK. But our troops or our civilians will die one way or another as a result.

Cameron and his crew may well consider that this is a price worth paying, so I urge them to consider, if by killing your children you could put an end to chemical warfare, would you kill them. or perhaps it is only a price worth paying if you are not the one who has to pay. Someone else's children will pay the price for your global ambitions, because all of this chemical warfare talk is nonsense, there are no nice ways to be killed. But the Eton / Sandhurst ethos doesn't care about that. They will sacrifice other people's children in the interests of empire without a second thought. That's what all of their training is designed to do. Those who do not belong to the elites are sub-human as far as they are concerned and unworthy of the same consideration they give their own children.

This is all about being seen to be a global power. There doesn't seem to be the same moral imperative on Denmark or Norway or a host of other countries to throw away the lives of their people to retain global influence. It's about English imperial ambitions, and not even all of England, only London and the south east. The rest of the U.K. are firmly against any intervention.  But the Joint Intelligence Committee will produce a review of the intelligence. The last one acquired the title 'the dodgy dossier' because they are so politically motivated that a neutral review of the facts is almost impossible. And off to war we'll go again.

But Scotland can opt out of those global ambitions and try to be a country that lives at peace with its neighbours. Scottish soldiers have been at war virtually unbroken somewhere in the world for the best part of 100 years, and what have we to show for it. The massive wealth of the U.K. has agglomerated into the south east and we have been forced by the money, our money, wasted chasing dreams of empire into poverty for which we are now condemned.

It doesn't have to be that way. There is a referendum on independence coming up and if we only have the courage to grasp the thistle it could be very different. It's time to say, 'enough', keep Scottish troops out of foreign wars, and call a halt to Westminster rule.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Tories Discover Where That Is

It's nice that the Tories in Westminster seem to have discovered that you can travel north of Carlisle without falling off the end of the world, and that Big Dave Cameron has offered his services to help out the tartan Tories of the SNP with the organisation of the Commonwealth Games. No doubt he'll fly in, meet a few millionaires, and fly out the same day. You wont find him hanging around to see the misery and devastation he's causing in Glasgow and elsewhere.

But just to remind him that Scotland has twice as many Giant Pandas as Tory M.P.s (and you can't say that often enough) and with any luck it'll soon be three times as many if the zoo gets it right.  So here's hoping for one more Giant panda and one less Tory M.P.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Diageo : There's Right Good Money in Butchery

Diageo former boss Paul Walsh 'earned' 14.8 million pounds in his final year with the company. No doubt he deserved every penny of it. He effected efficiencies that pushed up the share price and the shareholder returns by more than anyone ever imagined during his term of office. Of course Diageo wont pick up the bill for the social damage that it's products will cause, because Johnnie Walker and Bells whisky and Guinness are big brands internationally and generate lots of profit for the City. You and I will pick up the bill for that in the same way as the people of Kilmarnock were dumped from his organisation to shrink the cost base and increase the profits of the group.

Remind me again how we're all in this together. I can't quite get my head round that part where the seventh richest country in the world is really bankrupt and has to tax the sick to make ends meet and use foodbanks to feed hungry children.

Perhaps Paul Walsh could put his hand in his pocket and help out, but I doubt it.

Beau Derek Mackay M.P. and the Payday Lenders

It's good to see that Beau Derek Mackay has decided to speak out against payday lenders in the Paisley Daily Express today. But we have to ask, 'Why so late, Beau?'  Renfrewshire branch of the Scottish Socialist Party were protesting in the streets a fortnight ago and we didn't see you around. It's not like the SNP to miss a passing bandwagon. Maybe it's just that you don't really want to show your face in the streets of Paisley after the performance of the SNP when they were in control of the Council. Not that Tony Blair's New Labour seem to be doing any better.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Global Cities and Regional Crises. London and Scottish independence

London is a Global City. With New York and Tokyo it is one of the top ranked global cities of the world. At a lower level we probably have Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Paris and a few others. Decisions, social, cultural, political and, especially, economic taken in top global cities are truly global in their effects. They house the real levers of international power.

Having a global city as its capital can bring massive economic benefits to a country in terms of international trade and in attracting international investment and events, and looking in particular at London it is clear that the power of the global city contributes massively to the economic growth and performance of the economy of the United Kingdom. The City of London generates enormous wealth and its contribution to the U.K.'s Gross National Product cannot be overstated.

This means that in national terms the U.K. can be seen as one of the richest countries in the world despite its relative lack of geographic area. It can, and does, demand a seat on the United Nations security council and a variety of other world institutions. Having a successful global city as its capital helps the U.K. punch well above its weight in the world. The result of that is that the U.K. has to fulfil a role in world events and that means becoming involved on a regular basis in the internal affairs of other nations as an international policeman or 'peacekeeper' or some other modern type of colonialism in order to maintain its position as a global power led by a global city.

The real problem, however, of having a global city as the capital city of the U.K. is that, although global cities reside geographically in the countries that they lead, they exist more in another notional country where the only relationships which matter are those relationships with other global cities. Rather than being involved with other parts of the country London has a stronger relationship with New York and Tokyo than it has with Glasgow or Sheffield, Newcastle or Birmingham. Trillions of Dollars are sent whizzing around the globe in milliseconds between London, Tokyo and New York to generate wealth for those cities, but very little of that wealth finds its way out of those cities and into the real wealth creating areas of their respective countries. They are like black holes sucking in wealth and power of which practically none escapes further than the distance of the daily commute to the institutions of wealth and power.

So we end up with travesties like the London Olympics where billions of pounds were raised from the whole country from taxation and lottery funding and poured into the most affluent area of the country. The billions of pounds of returns which we were led to expect, if it eventually materialises will remain with the south east of the country. It will not escape back into the economy of the whole U.K. but it will be traded with New York and Tokyo to generate more wealth for the global city.
Similarly, the high speed rail project which is supposed to increase the flow of wealth to the north will only serve to suck wealth and investment into London, because given the choice, and if it is within easy travelling distance, business in search of higher profits will not re-locate out of a global city, it will re-locate to where the money and the market is. The cities of Manchester and Birmingham are in danger of becoming dormitories for workers who service the bee hive but can no longer afford to live in London.

It ends up in a situation where the south east of the country, in relative affluence, have little or no real understanding of the problems and situation of the other regions. They fail to see the problem because they don't have the problem of poverty and deprivation experienced by those unfortunate enough to live north of the Watford Gap. London has 281,000 millionaires (and it's been said that one in seventeen Londoners is a Dollar millionaire) while 34% of Glasgow primary school children receive free school meals and that tells its own story.

The conclusion is reasonably clear. Scotland would not be deprived of the wonderful economic benefits of the U.K. in the event of independence. They receive very little of the benefit of the sparkling economic performance of the economy of the south east at present and there is no real reason to believe that the black hole of the global city of London will surrender up any of its wealth any time in the near future. That's not how global cities work. Global cities make nothing but money. They trade currency back and forward between themselves and believe that the value of their currency assets is the price the last person paid for them. Until the bubble bursts and the last fool in the chain has to come cap in hand to the rest of the country to bail them out by increasing tax (but never on the rich) and cutting benefits for the vulnerable they have created.

Global cities are only good for themselves and other global cities. For the rest of the country that they occupy geographically they are a curse. A real economy can only be sustained in the long term by real people producing real goods and services in the real world, not in the cyber-world of the global city.

The other regions of England can do little about it because as soon as their representatives are elected into position they are absorbed into the London Parliament and sucked into the black hole to become part of the grand conspiracy. But Scotland can escape, so I'll take my chance on government from Edinburgh.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Scottish Independence Referendum and the Westminster Parliament

I speak here for no-one but myself as usual.
I’ve been thinking long and hard about some of the questions raised by Westminster about the future of Scotland after the Independence Referendum, so let me try to give an answer to the Westminster Parliament to some of the key issues e.g
Will we join the European Union ?.
Will we join the Euro ?
Will we join Nato ?
Will we have our own currency or piggy-back on another?
Will we retain the Queen as head of state ? … and,
What will we do about an army ?
My answer is that it’s none of your bloody business. These are matters that will be decided by the people of Scotland after we are independent.  You will not bind us in advance to policies of your choosing. You are no longer our big brother looking after us and making sure we act in the best interests of the English parliament, we will not submit to your oversight and we will no longer answer to you on matters that are no concern of yours. Independence will be just what it says on the tin.
The political parties of Scotland will have an election and each will, no doubt, propose a different raft of policies, just as you do at Westminster, and for you to try to insist that a common raft of the most fundamental policies must be agreed in advance between all of the parties is supremely arrogant. These decisions are for the people of Scotland and for them alone. They may well have consequences for the rump of the UK but that should affect our decisions no more than the effect on the UK moderates the policies of your other neighbours such as France or Germany i.e. not at all.
So please stop interfering. You have many bigger problems which are much more demanding of your attentions, such as filling in your expenses.

Wimbledon and the Other Class

In Ferguslie Park, Paisley yesterday …. The kids have a rope tied to a lamp post and the other end to a shopping trolley across the street. The Umpire is sitting in the shopping trolley and as cars approach he pulls himself along the fence so as to drop the ‘net’ and let the cars pass. Then he hauls himself back shouting ‘play a let’. I don't know if it’s actually covered in the LTA rule book but it obviously works for the kids.

And that’s what will make this country great again. Not individual achievement by elite individuals, but the teamwork, innovation and imagination of working class kids in housing schemes all over Scotland just waiting for that fair chance to shine that we hope independence will bring.

The Scottish socialist Party is the only Scottish party that can unleash the power and potential buried in the housing schemes of our country. The major parties and other elites are terrified that we realise what we have.