Morning Star: Water price hikes: we need a mass movement for public ownership, Attack on free speech and more

Spread the love

Editorials and a few articles from The Morning Star

Morning Star: Water price hikes: we need a mass movement for public ownership

Water bills from Southern Water

Water price hikes: we need a mass movement for public ownership

UNITE’S Sharon Graham calls the water industry “a symbol of the failure of privatisation writ large.”

She is right. The only reaction to water bosses’ announcement that they will raise prices above inflation from April should be a mass campaign for renationalisation now.

Water suppliers claim they need to raise bills because they are planning big investments to cut down on leaks. How dare they?

Since privatisation these crooks have paid out over £70 billion in dividends to shareholders, loaded the sector — debt-free when privatised — with over £50bn in debt and raised bills by over 40 per cent.

While milking the system for everything it’s worth they have neglected basic maintenance and repairs. In London and the south-east alone, water regulator Ofwat calculated last year that 600 million litres, equivalent to 270 Olympic swimming pools, are leaked from pipes every single day.

They have behaved with utter contempt for the environment, discharging untreated sewage into our waterways thousands of times. They have continued to pay executives millions even when fined for their illegal ecological vandalism.

Morning Star: Attack on free speech

THE director of public prosecutions is appealing to the Supreme Court to overturn the acquittal of two peaceful protesters for insulting Iain Duncan Smith.

Ruth Wood and Radical Haslam were charged over an incident in Manchester during the October 2021 Conservative Party conference at which both called the former work and pensions secretary “Tory scum” and Ms Wood added “F*** off out of Manchester.”

That their case even reached the High Court should have set alarm bells ringing over the creeping restriction of free speech in Britain. That court’s not guilty verdict was welcome, though its consideration of their motives for insulting Mr Duncan Smith was surely unnecessary: rudeness to a politician should not be considered criminal, end of.

MPs reveal the human cost of the Bibby Stockholm, as taxpayers pick up extra £2.6bn bill

A view of the Bibby Stockholm migrant accommodation barge following the death of an asylum seeker on board, December 12, 2023

THE tragic human cost of the Bibby Stockholm barge was revealed by MPs today as the Tories’ overspend on asylum accommodation landed taxpayers with an extra £2.6 billion bill.

Dame Diana Johnson said asylum-seekers were facing “claustrophobic” conditions that could amount to a breach of human rights after the home affairs select committee visited the Portland vessel.

The committee chairwoman wrote to illegal migration minister Michael Tomlinson to set out serious concerns about the wellbeing of asylum-seekers on the barge.

She said it was “disheartened to see some of the living conditions on the Bibby Stockholm” after finding “many individuals having to share small, cramped cabins (originally designed for one person), often with people (up to six) they do not know (some of whom spoke a different language to them).”

“These crowded conditions were clearly contributing to a decline in mental health for some of the residents, and they could amount to violations of the human rights of asylum-seekers,” she added.

The committee complained of “discrepancies” between the accounts of officials and asylum-seekers themselves, noting MPs received “inconsistent” information regarding access to GP services for those on board.

Former Labour mayor launches independent election campaign with scathing attack on party

Mayor of North of Tyne, Jamie Driscoll, speaking at the Convention of the North, January 25, 2023

AN ELECTED Labour mayor who was barred by the party from standing in May’s mayoral election has launched his election campaign standing as an independent.

North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll attacked Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in a packed community hall in Sunderland on Thursday night asking: “What if – it’s a general election year – Keir Starmer says, ‘here’s my 10 pledges’ – would you trust him to keep them?”

He criticised Labour MPs and other politicians who changed their positions each time a policy was altered by the leadership.

“The day I left the Labour Party was the day Labour said they would adopt the Conservative policy of the two-child benefit cap — a policy that plunged 250,000 kids into poverty at a stroke,” he said.

“And all those Labour frontbenchers – and Labour mayoral candidates – who’d said that policy was ‘heinous’ and ‘cruel’ changed their tune, and said, ‘ah, well, you know, public finances,’ and meekly swallowed the party line that it’s OK to keep children in poverty.

Continue ReadingMorning Star: Water price hikes: we need a mass movement for public ownership, Attack on free speech and more

Energy price cap rise will ‘hammer households even harder’ this year, union body warns

Spread the love

https://leftfootforward.org/2024/01/energy-price-cap-rise-will-hammer-households-even-harder-this-year-union-body-warns/

Image of cash and pre-payment meter key
Image of cash and pre-payment meter key

The leading trade union body has slammed government policy for benefiting corporate profiteering at the expense of household bills, leading renewed calls to nationalise the energy sector after the 5% energy price cap rise.

Households will be ‘hammered even harder’ in 2024 the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has said, as the Ofgem price cap rise came into effect from January 1, which will see households across the country face a 5% increase in their energy bill.

It has led to further warnings from charities about struggling households facing another cold start to the year and renewed calls for government support to help households struggling with their energy bills.

“No one should struggle to get by in one of the richest countries in the world,” said TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak.

“But 13 years of wage stagnation and cuts to social security have left millions badly exposed to sky-high bills this winter.”

With energy bills already 50% higher than two years ago, Nowak said the price cap rise will only “hammer households even harder in the coming year”.

Warm This Winter, a coalition of 50 leading UK charities, warned of the effects the government’s inaction at tackling the energy crisis will have across services.  

“Failure to avert this cold homes crisis will lead to pressure on the NHS, a mental health catastrophe and additional winter deaths caused by living in cold damp homes,” said Fiona Waters, Warm This Winter spokesperson.

https://leftfootforward.org/2024/01/energy-price-cap-rise-will-hammer-households-even-harder-this-year-union-body-warns/

Continue ReadingEnergy price cap rise will ‘hammer households even harder’ this year, union body warns

Left Foot Forward EXCLUSIVE: Poll shows huge support for nationalisation of key industries and utilities

Spread the love

https://leftfootforward.org/2023/11/exclusive-poll-shows-huge-support-for-nationalisation-of-key-industries-and-utilities/

Privatisation has failed.

Image of an East Coast train
An East Coast train at King’s Cross station

An exclusive poll for LFF shows huge public support for nationalisation of key industries and utilities, with the public having little confidence in the private sector, showing just how badly privatisation has failed.

Our poll shows that a majority of the public support public ownership of key industries and utilities like energy, water, railways, buses and the postal service – including among Conservative voters.

Buses: 67% want public ownership

67% of voters want to see buses in public ownership, with just 23% wanting private sector involvement. Support for public ownership of buses is highest among 18-24 year olds at 77%, with 64% of those aged 65 and over also supporting public ownership.

When it comes to party affiliation, a majority of Conservative Party voters want to see buses in public ownership (61%) as do Labour voters (72%) and Lib Dem voters (66%).

Water: 73% want public ownership

When it comes to water companies, 73% of voters want public ownership of water companies, compared to 18% who want them to be run by the private sector. Once again, a majority of Tory voters also want to see public ownership (70%) as do Labour voters (81%) and Lib Dem voters (77%). 88% of Green Party voters also want to see water companies taken into public ownership.

Railways: 70% support for public ownership

Energy: 65% want public ownership

Postal service: 70% want public ownership

NHS: 81% want public sector involvement only

https://leftfootforward.org/2023/11/exclusive-poll-shows-huge-support-for-nationalisation-of-key-industries-and-utilities/

Continue ReadingLeft Foot Forward EXCLUSIVE: Poll shows huge support for nationalisation of key industries and utilities

Post-Brexit UK water quality standards set to be much lower than EU standards

Spread the love

‘The UK’s decision to diverge from EU water quality standards is yet another blow in a string of post-Brexit setbacks.’

Image of a burst water main.
Image of a burst water main.


https://leftfootforward.org/2023/11/post-brexit-uk-water-quality-standards-set-to-be-much-lower-than-eu-standards/

The UK government is to diverge from the EU’s standards for monitoring the quality of water in England.

An exclusive report by the Guardian this week revealed that instead of being covered by the EU’s water framework directive (WFD), as it was when the UK was in the European Union, the government will use its own, as yet undisclosed, methodology to assess the quality of England’s waterways. Under the WFD, a national chemical and ecology survey was carried out every year. But from 2016, the government made the decision that water quality under WFD would only be tested every three years, instead of annually.

The last time a full water assessment of England’s rivers took place was in 2019, when just 14 percent were found to be in good ecological health. None however, met good chemical health standards. 

According to the report, government officials told stakeholders about the change at a meeting. A source from an NGO who had attended the meeting said: “When asked how this would affect assessments against the target set out in the government’s environment improvement plan, officials commented that this data would no longer be used for that purpose, and that Defra were looking to use the Natural Capital and Ecosystem Assessment (NCEA) process to assessment performance. I question how developed the work on the NCEA is and whether this is suitable.”

Campaigners have warned that diverging from EU environmental standards will lead to England’s rivers and waterways becoming even more polluted if the new measuring methods are less rigorous. They also warn that it may make it more difficult for the state of England’s rivers to be compared with those in the EU, meaning the public will be left in the dark about water pollution and sewage.

https://leftfootforward.org/2023/11/post-brexit-uk-water-quality-standards-set-to-be-much-lower-than-eu-standards/

Continue ReadingPost-Brexit UK water quality standards set to be much lower than EU standards

We Own it protesters demand Labour commits to reinstating fully public NHS

Spread the love

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/we-own-it-protesters-demand-labour-commits-reinstating-fully-public-nhs

We Own It campaigners in masks outside the conference hall

ANTI-privatisation campaigners gathered outside the Labour Party conference today morning to demand that leader Sir Keir Starmer commit to reinstating the NHS as a fully public service.

Protesters from We Own It wore masks of the most recent Tory prime ministers and cut into an NHS box using knives adorned with private company logos while a masked Sir Keir watched as delegates began arriving at the conference in Liverpool.

We Own It director Cat Hobbs said: “In 2010, the NHS was rated the most efficient and best-performing health service in the world.

“The message of our action … is that after 13 years of cuts and privatisation, Keir Starmer has an opportunity to be a hero to the NHS by committing, in his speech to conference, to reinstate it as a fully public service.

“We want to say to Keir Starmer that the public wants a leader who will stand up for our NHS.”

Ms Hobbs said the public call is “too clear for Labour to ignore.”

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/we-own-it-protesters-demand-labour-commits-reinstating-fully-public-nhs

Continue ReadingWe Own it protesters demand Labour commits to reinstating fully public NHS

Green Party conference: Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay put demands for public ownership front and centre

Spread the love

https://bright-green.org/2023/10/06/green-party-conference-carla-denyer-and-adrian-ramsay-put-demands-for-public-ownership-front-and-centre/

Green Party co-leaders Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay have delivered their speech to their party’s autumn conference with a call for key public services to be brought into public ownership. The conference speech – likely the last before the next general election – ripped into the failures of privatisation in sectors from water to the health service.

Green Party Co-leader Adrian_Ramsay. Wikipedia CC.
Green Party Co-leader Adrian_Ramsay. Wikipedia CC.

Ramsay told attendees: “Private water companies are dumping sewage into our rivers and seas, while taking on billions in debt to fund dividend payments to shareholders.”

He went on to say: “We’ll have the platform to say what none of the other parties has had the courage to say: that the privatised water companies have failed, that there must be no more shareholder payouts until the water companies stop dumping sewage in our rivers, that the money we pay for our water bills must be spent updating our infrastructure not filling the pockets of shareholders, and that water is run as the public service that it should be, not the profit-making scheme that it’s become – by bringing it back into public hands.”

Ramsay’s comments were met with eruptions of cheers and applause from the audience.

Image of the Green Party's Carla Denyer on BBC Question Time.
Image of the Green Party’s Carla Denyer on BBC Question Time.

Denyer, meanwhile, highlighted the issues currently facing the NHS. She said: “The NHS and our other public services have been brought to breaking point by 13 years of Conservative cuts – with patients and staff paying the price. Has it ever been so hard to find a dentist? Have we ever had to wait so long to see an NHS consultant? Those that can afford it are forking out for private health care, those who can’t afford it are left behind. And meanwhile, no solutions are being offered.”

She went on to criticise the record and position of both Labour and the Tories on the health service, telling attendees: “The Tories blame medical staff – those frontline workers calling for a long overdue and well-deserved pay rise, and Labour’s promise of ‘reform’ rings hollow given the scale of the crisis – and hints at more privatisation by the back door. We know we can do better than this.”

Finishing her comments on the health service, Denyer called for the NHS to be reinstated as a fully public service – with free dental provision included. She said: “The Green Party believes in an NHS that sits fully in public hands,  free at the point of use for all – including dentistry – and with four Green MPs in Parliament, we’ll never let the other parties forget it.

“We know that claps don’t pay the bills. We believe in decent pay and fair conditions for public sector workers and an NHS that provides the health safety net it was designed to all those years ago.”

Elsewhere in their address, Denyer accused the Labour Party of being “more interested in fossil fuel investors getting their dirty profits” than addressing the climate crisis. She told the conference: “Energy bills in the UK are nearly £2.5bn higher than they would have been if the government hadn’t dismissed climate policy over the last decade. Not content with that, they are now doubling down on their climate vandalism: granting permission for a huge coal mine; failing to get a single bid for vital offshore wind projects; weakening our net zero commitments; and opening up the enormous Rosebank oilfield.

“And Labour are following them every step of the way – willing onlookers to the Conservatives’ climate crimes. Rosebank? ‘The right decision,’ says Gordon Brow[n]. Their reasoning: ‘investor certainty’. Sounds good right? But let us translate: Labour is more interested in fossil fuel investors getting their dirty profits, than in taking meaningful climate action.”

https://bright-green.org/2023/10/06/green-party-conference-carla-denyer-and-adrian-ramsay-put-demands-for-public-ownership-front-and-centre/

Continue ReadingGreen Party conference: Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay put demands for public ownership front and centre

Sorry is not enough: Water companies must be brought into public ownership

Spread the love
April 2023 Surfers Against Sewage and Extinction Rebellion protests in St Agnes, Perranporth, Truro and Charlestown which unveiled spoof Blue Plaques to the MPs and Conservative Government who allowed raw sewage to be dumped in the sea (Image: Surfers Against Sewage)
April 2023 Surfers Against Sewage and Extinction Rebellion protests in St Agnes, Perranporth, Truro and Charlestown which unveiled spoof Blue Plaques to the MPs and Conservative Government who allowed raw sewage to be dumped in the sea (Image: Surfers Against Sewage)

https://greenworld.org.uk/article/sorry-not-enough-water-companies-must-be-brought-public-ownership

The Green Party has reiterated its call for water companies to be brought into public ownership after Water UK apologised for a series of sewage discharges.

The Green Party has reiterated its call for water companies to be brought into public ownership after Water UK apologised for presiding over a rising tide of sewage discharges.

Water UK represents 25 water companies across the UK and said that the public was ‘right to be upset about the current quality of our rivers and beaches’. The companies have also promised to triple funding for sewer system upgrades, cut spilly by up to 25 per cent by 2030, and provide the public with ‘near real-time’ data on sewage spills. 

Green Party co-leader Adrian Ramsay said: “Rivers and coastlines up and down the country have faced years of assault at the hands of the water companies and a government that has refused to act.

“Saying sorry is simply not enough – and suggesting that the public has to pay for any improvements, after £57bn has been paid out in payouts to shareholders over the last 30 years, just adds insult to injury.

“Currently water companies can, almost with impunity, dump sewage into our rivers, waterways and coastal waters with an appalling cost to public health and our wildlife. This situation cannot go on.

https://greenworld.org.uk/article/sorry-not-enough-water-companies-must-be-brought-public-ownership

Continue ReadingSorry is not enough: Water companies must be brought into public ownership

Manchester launches first locally controlled bus service in four decades

Spread the love

https://leftfootforward.org/2023/09/manchester-launches-first-locally-controlled-bus-service-in-four-decades/

“I hope it signals the start of a public transport revolution across the whole of England,” says Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham.

Greater Manchester has retaken control of its buses after almost 40 years of deregulation.

As bus services were deregulated across the UK in 1986 – except in London where services remained under local control – the move represents the biggest change to public transport in a generation.

The privatisation of Britain’s bus sector was introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s government. At the time, the government predicted that the move would lead to “lower fares, new services, and more passengers,” while removing “any potential liability on the taxpayer.”

Instead, bus use has been in decline ever since, and today, much of the sector is in crisis, with taxpayers subsidising corporate profits. In Greater Manchester, the number of passengers using buses has fallen from 355m in 1986/87, to just over 182m at the end of 2019, just before Covid.

From September 24, a fleet of 50 zero-emission Bee Network-branded buses (ZEBs) will be in service. The buses offer a range of improved features for passengers, including two bays for wheelchair users, anti-slip flooring, audio and visual announcement systems, and hearing induction loops. Over the next two years, existing buses in Greater Manchester will be gradually upgraded to Bee Network buses.

https://leftfootforward.org/2023/09/manchester-launches-first-locally-controlled-bus-service-in-four-decades/

More at LeftFootForward

Continue ReadingManchester launches first locally controlled bus service in four decades

How big business took over the Labour Party

Spread the love

Original article by Adam Ramsay republished from Open Democracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Corporate lobbyists have successfully pushed Keir Starmer’s party to ditch its progressive policies

Keir Starmer sucking up to the rich and powerful at World Economic Forum, Davos.
Keir Starmer sucking up to the rich and powerful at World Economic Forum, Davos.

Over the summer, Keir Starmer’s Labour Party for the first time articulated a clear vision for government: everything will continue to be awful. Nothing will get better. Hope is for fools. And, most importantly, no one with wealth or power need worry themselves that any of either will be taken from them.

Because despite two-thirds of voters wanting the government to increase wealth taxes, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves last month emphasised that she won’t. And although 63% of Brits think taxes on the rich are too low, Starmer has made clear that he doesn’t want to raise income tax for top earners, saying his driving principle is, rather, to lower taxes. Only 5% think the rich pay too much tax.

Meanwhile, Labour’s £28bn-a-year pledge to invest in a Green New Deal – a plan to boost the transition to a zero-carbon economy – has been cancelled by Reeves, who stressed a need for ‘fiscal discipline’. The policy has wide support among voters, particularly in key marginals in England’s North and Midlands.

Also on the party’s scrapheap are popular plans for a publicly owned energy company and a tax hike on digital giants such as Facebook and Google, as well as pledges to replace Universal Credit and scrap the two-child benefit cap.

A certain portion of the press – both Conservative hacks and Blairite shills – see all this as genius: if Labour steals the Tories’ story, how can Rishi Sunak attack? And in a way, though not the way they mean, they may be right.

Wealth and political power are enormously concentrated in Britain. Since 1945, Labour has only ever got into government when it’s made very clear that it doesn’t intend to challenge the ruling elite.

As we saw with Jeremy Corbyn, our oligarch-controlled media, the City and even army generals won’t allow any suggestion that the party plans to govern in line with the egalitarian desires of the overwhelming majority of voters.

In the battle of a general election, the cultural grip of the UK’s establishment is strong enough to override voters’ policy preferences. Actually doing the things voters want – taxing the rich, renationalising key services and tackling the climate crisis – would mean taking on institutions powerful enough to take you down. Or, at least, that’s what many Labour strategists have effectively concluded, even if that’s not how they would express it.

Of course, you can argue against that. Maybe establishment institutions are losing their grip. Perhaps the Tories would still lose the next election if Starmer stuck to his promise to run on the left.

On the other hand, it’s possible that the Labour leader being such an obvious liar – getting himself elected by his party on one set of promises and then immediately breaking them – will allow the Tories to successfully take him down. But more likely, it will make his first term as prime minister very difficult, and leave a festering anger that the right will exploit.

Cock-ups and corruption

Over the past few weeks, I’ve revealed a series of scandals about Labour.

The party accepted an illegal donation of £600,000. Starmer has accepted more corporate freebies over the past two years than every other Labour leader since 1997 put together. The shadow business secretary, his wife-come-senior-assistant, and a senior Starmer staffer accepted luxury Glastonbury tickets from Google, then announced they were scrapping plans to hike the digital service tax the next day. Shadow cabinet members, including Starmer, have corporate lobbyists placed in their staff teams.

Most of these stories boil down to at least one of the various C-words that shape so much of our politics: cock-up, conspiracy, co-option, coercion, collusion, corruption, capture, cooperation and class interest. Each is, in its own way, revealing.

In the first story, I showed that the Barnes and Richmond Labour Club had given the central party an illegal donation of just under £600,000. This seems to have been an example of the first C – a cock-up.

The money came from a local Labour club selling a building that had once been used as a social club for members. The club’s treasurer had given the cash to his local party through the national party in order to comply with regulations. But the national party seems to have failed to deliver it: within five minutes of going through their donor list, I could see that they’d broken the rules.

One local Labour club messing up isn’t a big deal. The fact that the central party cared so little about obeying transparency laws that one of its biggest donors in recent years inadvertently broke them, is. For all of Starmer’s emphasis on competence, the party he leads seems not to have invested enough in training its staff in the laws governing political finance.

It’s much harder to see Google as the bad guy when you’ve sung along to Elton John with its team, while tipsy on its tab

When we broke the second story, about Starmer’s freebies, and the third, about Jonathan Reynolds’ trip to Glasto with Google, there was a pretty ferocious reaction online. The word people kept coming back to was ‘corruption’. But I’m sure that, in his mind, Starmer doesn’t think there is any transaction going on; he’s not accepting gifts from the gambling industry in exchange for future laxity with gambling laws. They are just inviting him, he presumably thinks, because they enjoy the glamour of having the likely next prime minister on their arm.

And, the labour leader’s internal monologue might argue, it’s perfectly appropriate for him to hear from and experience the wares of various British industries. In any case, if a politician was selling elements of public policy, they could do a lot better than a four-course meal with fizz in a special box at the races.

A better word for what is going on is ‘co-option’.

Co-option

The social theorist Ralph Miliband – dad of Ed and David – documented how the same thing was done to the very first Labour MPs, a century ago. While some of the establishment was horrified by the arrival of these cloth-capped working-class men in the hallowed halls of the Palace of Westminster, its cleverer figures knew just what to do. They took them out for dinner at their smart London clubs. They introduced them to their wives, and to fine wines. They inducted them into the ruling class.

The consequence was that the first Labour administrations in the 1920s governed very much within the rules set by the establishment they had been socialised into, including pushing through massive public spending cuts after the Wall Street Crash, rather than devaluing the pound. What we’re seeing now is the same process of co-option in post-Corbyn Labour. Only now, it’s not so much co-option into the old ruling class – though we get a whiff of that in Starmer’s days out at the races – but into the glitz of big business: tickets to the Brit Awards, the best seats in the nation’s swankiest football stadiums, the luxury end of Glastonbury.

Part of the message these businesses are trying to convey to Labour folk will be expressed verbally, over sips of champagne or between the amuse bouche and the appetiser. But part of it comes in the setting itself: it’s much harder to see Google as the bad guy when you’ve sung along to Elton John with its team, while tipsy on its tab. It’s much easier to go soft on elites once you feel part of them, to see things from the perspective of a multi-millionaire if you’re watching the football from the premium suite than if you’re cheering from the stands with the fans.

You see a similar phenomenon with sponsored events at Labour Party conference, as revealed by my colleague Ruby recently. Often, these are luxurious affairs – I can still remember the delicious beef and truffle canapés I got from a firm pushing freeports a few years back.

Businesses with policy agendas invest time and money in buying nice things for politicians and their staff because it works – not in the simple transactional way that a word like ‘corruption’ implies. But in subtler, softer ways. If it didn’t, they wouldn’t do it.

Co-operation

Cooperation is important, too. While members of the cabinet have special advisers funded through the civil service, their shadows don’t get equivalent staffing support – and the resources aren’t distributed equally. Some members of the shadow cabinet have just one adviser, funded by the Labour Party, others have whole teams, paid for by major donors.

It’s generally those associated with the right of the Labour Party who seem able to attract the funding of the handful of hedge funders and millionaires who chip in to such things. As a result, they get the researchers and spinners who make them look more competent, allowing them to deliver more, to grow their profiles, to succeed.

In 2018, the party took £700,000 in donations. So far this year, it’s already taken £12m

Peter Kyle, for example, who has recently been appointed shadow secretary of state for science, and who is associated with the right of the party, has been given £50,000 by wealthy financiers over the past year. Jonathan Ashworth, who was shadow secretary of state for work and pensions and who is seen as being on the soft left of the party, got no such donations, and was demoted to paymaster general in the recent reshuffle.

Other recipients of large amounts of private cash include shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper – all of whom are associated with the right of the party. Shadow cabinet members who come from the ‘soft left’ don’t get anything like the same support.

There is no suggestion of impropriety here. Kyle and pals genuinely believe in policies that are good for their banker backers, while Ashworth et al are less keen. But the result is that the one on the side of the super-rich gets to have a super-sized staff team, and the political muscle which comes with it.

This phenomenon is not limited to shadow cabinet members. The Labour Party has changed its policy over the past few months, and has subsequently been richly rewarded with a surge in large donations.

Since becoming leader in 2020, Starmer’s Labour has struggled for money. Membership – and the revenue it provides – has dropped by 170,000 in the past three years, while trade union contributions have fallen by more than a million since 2018.

But the party’s latest accounts, which came out this week, show that the shortfall has now been more than bridged by large donations from rich people and companies. In 2018, the party took £700,000 in donations above the £7,500 reporting threshold (or £1,500 for local parties and the like). So far this year, it’s already taken £12m.

The policies that Labour has ditched in recent months may have been overwhelmingly popular among voters. But they weren’t, it seems, with its wealthy potential donors.

Collusion

It’s not surprising that lots of businesses want to shape Labour policy. Polls show that the party will likely form the next government, and corporations want to make sure it won’t get in the way of their plans to extract as much profit as they can.

In one of its newsletters this week, Politico quotes Alice Perry, associate director at H/Advisors Cicero and a former chair of Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee, as saying that demand for insider advice on how to lobby Starmer’s team has rocketed since last year. According to the website: “You can’t move in SW1 without meeting one of the new bespoke ‘Labour units’ being set up by lobbying shops or their latest ex-Labour hire.”

The revolving door goes the other way, too. As I revealed earlier this week, at least ten current staffers for shadow cabinet ministers previously worked as corporate lobbyists.

But the revolving door between lobbying agencies and the top of politics is old news. And at least a revolving door means you are either in or out at any given moment. Starmer and his colleagues, however, seem to have found a new way to blur the lines: taking on staff who are still employed as corporate lobbyists – seconded from their usual work to the Labour Party. Much of the shadow cabinet is, in other words, directly collaborating with the lobbying firms trying to sell access to them.

Commercial lobbying exists to help those with money get extra influence over governments. The inevitable corollary is that ordinary citizens will get, relatively, less say. As such, its point is to distort democratic processes, to bend them to the will of capital.

In the dying days of the last Labour government, a string of former cabinet ministers were caught offering themselves for hire as lobbyists. The ensuing scandal contributed to a sense that the party’s time in office was coming to a somewhat sordid end, and coincided with a dip in the polls. But that was after 13 years in power.

If the party is willing to so openly collude with corporate lobbyists when it ought to be fresh faced and ready for office, then voters will hear its message loud and clear: don’t expect anything to get better.

Original article by Adam Ramsay republished from Open Democracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Continue ReadingHow big business took over the Labour Party

Jeremy Corbyn: Ticket office closures are ‘unnecessary, cruel and simply wrong’

Spread the love

https://leftfootforward.org/2023/09/jeremy-corbyn-ticket-office-closures-are-unnecessary-cruel-and-simply-wrong/

Image of Jeremy Corbyn MP, former leader of the Labour Party
Jeremy Corbyn MP, former leader of the Labour Party

Jeremy Corbyn calls on Labour to commit to nationalising the transport industry in exclusive interview

Jeremy Corbyn slammed plans to close railway ticket offices as ‘cruel and simply wrong’ whilst calling on Labour to commit to renationalising the transport system, in an interview with LFF.

“What we need is a real, public and clear determination by the Labour Party, not just to bring the train operating companies back into public ownership, but all the other aspects of the rail industry into public ownership,” said Corbyn.

“We need a publicly owned and publicly run transport system.”

Plans to close 1,000 ticket offices in Britain have led to fresh calls to renationalise the rail system, as a whistle-blower admitted the plan was in fact about cost cutting, as supposed to ‘digitalising’ the future of travel which the government claimed. Over 2,300 jobs are being put at risk by the plan.

https://leftfootforward.org/2023/09/jeremy-corbyn-ticket-office-closures-are-unnecessary-cruel-and-simply-wrong/

Continue ReadingJeremy Corbyn: Ticket office closures are ‘unnecessary, cruel and simply wrong’