Even after Grenfell the Tories still lust after a “bonfire of red tape” – and will use Brexit to pursue it

June 24, 2017 at 6:02 pm (Civil liberties, Conseravative Party, Europe, Human rights, Jim D, libertarianism, nationalism, populism, rights, Tory scum)

Above: Cameron’s stunt that backfired

“In our commitment to be the first Government to reduce regulation, we have introduced the one in, two out rule for regulation … Under that rule, when the Government introduce a regulation, we will identify two existing ones to be removed. The Department for Communities and Local Government has gone further and removed an even higher proportion of regulations. In that context, Members will understand why we want to exhaust all non-regulatory options before we introduce any new regulations” – Brandon Lewis, the then housing minister (now the immigration minister), in 2014, rejecting calls to force construction companies to fit sprinklers.

Apart from racism and xenophobia, the other driving force behind all wings of the Leave campaign was deregulation – the idea that EU rules and regulations restrict Britain’s freedom. This idea was central to the Leave campaign, and its implications were spelt out plainly by the influential Conservative Home website.

Boris Johnson has spent years writing and telling lies about EU “red tape”, and his old employer, the Daily Telegraph launched a campaign for a “bonfire of red tape” in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote. Post-Grenfell that expression “a bonfire” leaves a nasty taste in the mouth (as Jonanthen Freedland wrote in the Guardian), “well they’ve had their bonfire now”.

But don’t be deceived into thinking that the Tories and their Brexiteer press are having second thoughts post-Grenfell.  That would require a degree of honesty and common decency that is beyond them. The Daily Express, bizarrely, suggested that EU energy-saving regulations were to blame for the use of the cladding that spread the fire (despite the fact that it’s illegal in Germany). But what is known, as George Monbiot pointed out in the Guardian, is that in 2014 the government rejected the idea of obliging construction companies to install sprinkler systems in new buildings – as part of its commitment, it explained, to a “one in, two out rule for regulation”. It is surely just a coincidence that, according to Property Week magazine, the Tories received more than £1m in donations from property and construction companies in the year to the 2015 election.

That “one in, two out rule” was part of the tape-burning zeal of the Tories, summed up most crudely in the 2011 Red Tape Challenge dreamt up by former David Cameron adviser and Brexiteer Steve Hilton. He and the rest of the “new Tory right” had wet dreams about transforming Britain into a Singapore-style paradise of minimally regulated offshore swashbuckling. In 2013, Cameron himself stood in front of an exhortation to “Cut EU red tape”, so he could hardly complain when such arguments were deployed mercilessly against him in the referendum.

The Tories’ plan to use Brexit as the opportunity for a “bonfire of red tape” has not gone away, even if, post Grenfell, they’re a little less brazen and gung-ho.

The proposed Great Repeal Bill, transferring EU law into British law so as to avoid a legal vacuum on day one of Brexit, is the means by which the Tories intend to continue their deregulation programme.

Under so-called “Henry VIII powers”, the government will assume unfettered powers to bypass parliamentary scrutiny and rewrite laws originating in European legislation.

It’s a pretty good bet that they have the Agency Workers Regulations, the Working Time Regulations and uncapped compensation in discrimination claims, in their sights.

A briefing from Another Europe is Possible and Global Justice Now warns of the possible consequences of the Great Repeal Bill, arguing that it “has the potential to grant the government an almost unprecedented level of unaccountable power, using a political process that will chill democratic scrutiny”.

The briefing makes the following recommendations:

1. The government must reveal specific details of the content of its Great Repeal Bill, and it must be a clear and detailed bill (not a ‘skeleton bill’)
2. This must happen very soon, with a clear proposed timetable to ensure proper time necessary for the task with a minimum 6 months for consultation and 6 months for debate
3.  The transfer of EU law into UK law must be transparent, clear and accountable:

  • it must include provisions to ensure that delegated power to the government  is clearly and precisely defined in scope and purpose.
  • Henry VIII powers should be avoided, and when used, subject to the super-affirmative procedure.
  • Sunset clauses should be used to ensure that the delegated legislative powers do not last indefinitely.
  • There must be enhanced processes and resources for screening and scrutinising delegated legislation, including through new or existing parliamentary committees.

4. The government must guarantee, on the face of the bill, clear explicit provisions to prevent the bill affecting human rights, equalities, or environmental laws and standards, and to prohibit the use of delegated legislation to change or undermine such laws and standards.

A simpler approach, however, would be to use May’s election humiliation and the present volatility of British and international politics to campaign to stop Brexit altogether. The received wisdom is that it can’t be done and even that to do so would be undemocratic. But the definition of democracy is that people are allowed to change their minds. Why should the narrow verdict of 12 months ago be sacrosanct? If we want to stop the Tories’ plans to deregulate society, the surest way to do so is to stop Brexit. Of course, that will require that Labour comes of the fence and drops its present stance of studied ambiguity on the subject.

  • JD would like to acknowledge this excellent Guardian article by Steven Poole, which he used extensively in the preparation of this post.

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Grenfell Tower: ruling class criminal negligence

June 15, 2017 at 9:55 pm (campaigning, capitalism, class, Conseravative Party, crime, hell, Human rights, Jim D, Tory scum, tragedy)

“People were waving scarves, flashing phones, torches, flapping their windows back and forth, crying for help … At first people [on the ground below] were trying to help them, pushing at cordons. I could see the smoke billowing behind them and in some cases I could see the flames, until they disappeared … [by 4am] there was no sign of life. Everyone was in a resigned state of shock. We couldn’t do anything and we were coming to accept the fire brigade couldn’t do anything either … I’ll never forget the sound of those screams: the screams of children and grown men” (would-be rescuer Robin Garton, quoted in The Times).

The faces look out from the newspaper, smiling in happier times. Many of them black or Middle Eastern with names like Khadija Kaye, Jessica Urbano  and Ali Yawa Jafari. But also Sheila Smith and Tony Disson. Then you read about people throwing their children out of high windows in the hope that someone would catch them, people jumping (some on fire) to almost certain death (shades of 9/11) and mother of two Rania Ibrham sending a Snapchat video to a friend who described it: “She’s praying and she’s saying ‘Forgive me everyone, goodbye’.”

This all happened in 2017 in one of the wealthiest boroughs in London, under a Tory council and a Tory government. But these people weren’t wealthy: they were amongst the poorest in the city, living cheek by jowl with people of enormous wealth.

It turns out that the local residents’ group, the Grenfell Action Group, had repeatedly warned the council and the so-called Tenant Management Organisation (ie the landlord) that a disaster was coming. In November of last year Edward Daffarn published a post on the Grenfell Action Group blog, entitled Playing with Fire, in which he warned that “only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the Kensington and Chelsea Management Organisation (KCTMO) and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders.”

Local (Labour) councillor Judith Blakeman attempted to raise concerns with council officials and the management body “ad nauseam” since refurbishment of the block began in 2014: “They kept reassuring us that everything was fine” she said.

The refurbishment involved encasing the building with cladding that fire safety experts have long warned compromises the safety of tower blocks whose original “compartmentalised” design had incorporated rigorous fire safety standards (it also meant that advice to residents to “stay put” in the event of a fire was fatally inappropriate). An “external cladding fire” had caused the death of six people in Lakanal House tower block in South London in 2009. At the inquest into that disaster, the coroner had recommended that the government should review fire safety guidance to landlords and, in particular, the danger of the “spread of fire over the external envelope” of buildings (ie the use of external cladding). She also recommended that sprinkler systems be fitted to all high-rise buildings. None of this happened.

So why were the warnings ignored? Why did Gavin Barwell, who was housing minister until he lost his seat last week (and is now Theresa May’s chief of staff) fail to act on the warnings prompted by the Lakanal House fire? Why did his predecessor Brandon Lewis, tell MPs that it was “for the fire industry”, not government, to “encourage” the installation of sprinklers rather than “imposing” it? Why did then-communities secretary Eric Pickles treat the Lakanal House coroner’s recommendations as “advice” to local authorities rather than as instructions?  And why didn’t Grenfell Tower even have a building-wide fire alarm?

The answer is as simple as it’s shocking: these residents are poor working class people, many of whom are also ethnic minorities and migrants (in an especially tragic twist, the first body to be identified is that of a Syrian refugee, Mohammad al-Haj Ali). Such negligence and cost-cutting would never be tolerated in the luxury high-rise flats and offices peopled by the rich: these are built to the highest standards, using the safest materials.

This is ruling class contempt for the poor – also exemplified by May’s refusal to meet with local people during her brief and tightly-policed visit to the scene earlier today.

Let no-one tell you this was simply a “tragedy” as though it was some sort of natural disaster. This was criminal negligence by the ruling class and their political party, the Tories. Our response – and the only response that will truly honour the victims – must be to pursue the class struggle with renewed vigour. Starting by kicking out the Tories as soon as possible.

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May fails!

June 9, 2017 at 2:28 am (Conseravative Party, democracy, elections, gloating, Guardian, posted by JD, Tory scum)

Steve Bell (with whom we sometimes have our differences) in the Gruan the day before the election:

Steve Bell cartoon 08.06.17

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A bloody evasive woman

May 30, 2017 at 1:16 pm (campaigning, Conseravative Party, elections, Jim D, television)

Anyone who missed May’s wretched performance on the TV debate last night, should watch this. The audience openly heckled and mocked her evasions and hypocritical attempt to accuse Labour of failing to provide costings. One audience member even mouthed “bollocks” as she avoided giving a serious answer on NHS funding.

Corbyn, by contrast, gave an impressive performance and dealt with Paxman’s barely-concealed hostility with ease.

What a pity he made such a pig’s ear of Women’s Hour the next morning …

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That NICS capitulation: why not just ask The Mail what’s acceptable?

March 16, 2017 at 7:14 pm (Conseravative Party, Daily Mail, economics, Europe, Jim D, populism, Tory scum)

Image result for daily mail newspaper front page budget

I hate to admit this, but Hammond’s proposed increase in national insurance contributions (NICS) for the self employed wasn’t such a bad idea.

It would have been a modest, progressive increase in the national insurance contributions paid by the better-off self-employed while abolishing the £2.85 per week flat-rate contribution paid by those earning less than £16,250.

It would have raised  a much-needed £2 billion in a relatively fair way, recognising that  structure of NICs is a major driver in the growth of self-employment. An employer who can persuade a worker to become a self-employed contractor immediately saves paying 13.8% national insurance, while the newly self-employed contractors’ payments fall from 12% to 9%.

Hammond’s enforced (by May) U-turn now leaves a £2 billion hole in public finances, with no obvious means of plugging it.

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Tories’ favourite Academy Trust in near-collapse, after “Superhead” trousered second salary

May 17, 2016 at 3:08 pm (Brum, Champagne Charlie, Conseravative Party, corruption, Education, Tory scum)

Liam Nolan, Headmaster of Perry Beeches school in Birmingham, addresses the Conservative Party conference at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham

Above: Nolan at the 2012 Tory Conference

The Birmingham academy chain praised by David Cameron, Michael Gove and the present Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, is in serious financial crisis, leaving five schools in a state of uncertainty and 2,400 pupils and their parents, not knowing what the future holds.

Liam Nolan, the “Superhead” of Perry beaches Academy Trust, who has been on sick leave since Easter, when the Education Funding Agency (EFA) reported on serious financial mismanagement, has now resigned.

Mr Nolan was one of three executive headteachers at the Trust, and was also the trust’s Accounting Officer and Chief Executive. He received a salary of £120,000 directly from the Trust.

But the EFA, which oversees education spending for the Government, launched an investigation after it received claims from a whistleblower that “an additional second salary” was paid to Mr Nolan.

It has published a report saying that it discovered the trust had made payments of £1.297 million over two years to a business called Nexus Schools Ltd, which in return provides a range of services to the trust – including the services of its chief executive (CEO), Mr Nolan.

The report said £160,000 had been paid specifically for the work of the chief executive over two years (ie in addition to his £120,000 salary as Executive Head).

It said: “The trust pays Nexus for providing the services of a CEO for Perry Beeches multi-academy trust. Nexus then sub contracts this role to Liam Nolan Ltd, whose sole director is the Accounting Officer (ie Liam Nolan).“The Accounting Officer is also paid for his concurrent role as Executive Headteacher separately through payroll at £120,000 per annum in 2014/15.

“The academy paid Nexus £72,000, including VAT in 2013/14 and £88,800 plus VAT in 2014/15 for the CEO role.”

The payments were not transparent, the report said.

It said: “The payments made to the Accounting Officer, through Nexus and then Liam Nolan Ltd, for CEO services were not disclosed in the 2013/14 financial statements.”

And it also warned that there was no written contract with Nexus.

It said: “The trust spent £1.297m with Nexus over 2 years, without a written contract or a formal procurement exercise to demonstrate value for money.”

Mr Nolan’s niece and nephew were both employed by the Trust in the 12 months up to August 31 2015.

Debts at the trust are estimated to be in excess of £1.8 million, and rising each month, making it difficult to attract new private sponsors.

The Trust was also accused of claiming up to £2.8 million for children on free school meals, “where no evidence of eligibility exists” and has been ordered to repay £118,291.

Prime minister David Cameron meets pupils at the opening of Perry Beeches III Free School in Birmingham in 2013

David Cameron meets pupils at the opening of Perry Beeches III Free School in Birmingham in 2013

David Cameron praised the Trust when he visited Perry Beeches III in 2013.

He said at the time: “Here in Birmingham it is particularly exciting because we have Perry Beaches. The original school was the most improved school ever, which went from 20 per cent to 80 per cent A-star to C grades in six or seven years, so we have got a brilliant team here which is embracing this.”

A statement from the trust obtained by the Guardian newspaper reads:

Liam Nolan has presented his resignation from the post of CEO/executive headteacher at the Perry Beeches academy trust. He has made this decision to allow the necessary changes required to move the trust forward.

The decision by Mr Nolan and the governors to stand down leaves the management of the trust’s five schools in the hands of the Department for Education, while a search begins for new sponsors.

In 2013, Cameron described Mr Nolan and Perry Beeches as “a brilliant team” running “one of the most successful comprehensive schools ever in Britain”.

As well as being a prominent supporter of the Tories’ academies and Free Schools programme, Nolan was also careful to keep on good terms with local Labour MPs:

Last month Birmingham website The Chamberlain Files reported that three Birmingham Labour MPs each received £5,000 from the trust towards the cost of running their offices. The MPs – Gisela Stuart (Edgbaston), Jack Dromey (Erdington) and Shabanah Mahmood (Ladywood) agreed to repay the money.

Perry Beeches Academy Trust runs Perry Beeches Academy and four other schools, named Perry Beeches II, III, IV and V. Plans for two new free schools had been given approval by the DfE but will not now go ahead.

Perry Beeches Academy Trust joins Cuckoo Hall Academies Trust, Durand Academy Trust and Barnfield Federation as trusts highly praised by the Tories, but which have been criticised for their financial arrangements.

Mr Nolan has said “I’m not a businessman, I’m a Headmaster”. 

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Good riddance IDS: long may this Tory warfare continue

March 20, 2016 at 10:25 pm (Conseravative Party, David Cameron, reblogged, Tory scum, welfare)

By  Phil Burton-Cartledge (at All That Is Solid)

When you’re the head of a department that has meted out cruel and inhumane treatment to disabled people, when you’ve sat in the Commons and nodded through cut after sanction regime after tightened eligibility criteria, at what point do you say enough and call time over your complicity in these proceedings? Does one draw a veil over the old ministerial career by claiming principle and love for the charges you’ve spent six years abusing, or stick the boot in to cause maximum political damage?

Iain Duncan Smith, the so-called quiet man who’s done catastrophic harm to the position of disabled people in this country, has elected to do both. Uncharacteristically, an attempt to fund tax cuts for the well off by taking monies from payments to disabled people has gone down like a cup of cold sick. Which is interesting, considering their previous attacks have gone by with nary a murmur from outside the ranks of disability campaigners, the left, and the labour movement.

Okay, so let’s look at IDS’s “good reason” for resigning – the statement he’s put out himself.

I am unable to watch passively whilst certain policies are enacted in order to meet the fiscal self-imposed restraints that I believe are more and more perceived as distinctly political rather than in the national economic interest.

Blimey, IDS is lining up with John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn! Almost.

He goes on …

Too often my team and I have been pressured in the immediate run up to a budget or fiscal event to deliver yet more reductions to the working-age benefit bill. There has been too much emphasis on money-saving exercises and not enough awareness from the Treasury, in particular, that the government’s vision of a new welfare-to-work system could not be repeatedly salami-sliced.

To understand where IDS is coming from, one has to step inside his head. It’s scary, so come walk with me. Having previously corresponded with his ministerial office on dozens of occasions, I got the sense that IDS was acting out of ideological zeal. All of his letters would come back extolling the virtues of work, and ironic considering that IDS’s prescription for others is something he’s never really availed himself of. No matter. Work was the route out of poverty. Work was the route to self-respect. Work was the route to good health and mental well being – views typical of someone for whom low-paid drudgery is but a rumour. And IDS knew this better than the medical establishment and disabled people themselves. If only they could be liberated from their can’t-do mindset, hundreds of thousands drawing down disability support could become fully productive citizens. It is a sick joke when you think about the fates of some unfortunate ESA recipients, but IDS absolutely, genuinely believed he was designing a social security system that would “save lives”.

IDS has sat uneasily (to a degree) in Dave’s cabinet. He is an ideologue who takes his twisted principles seriously. Dave and Osborne are a touch more mercurial. They are wedded to broken Tory economics, but are quite willing to ditch principle for expediency. In Wednesday’s budget, Osborne was interested in shoring up a Middle England constituency ahead of the EU referendum as well as making a play for succeeding Dave. As he was prepared to give nice middle class people like me another tax cut and have disabled people pay for it, this clearly was too much for IDS. Just so Osborne was prepared – again – to throw IDS’s life work under a bus, so the Quiet Man has finally returned the favour.

What about the real reason? A little bit has to do with Europe, innit? Exit is another of IDS’s cracked priorities, and again must be frustrated that a number of ambitious Tories – not least the Mekon-like Sajid Javid and other heir-presumptive Theresa May – have dumped principles for position. By strengthening Osborne’s association with attacks on disabled people, he’s calculated that the chancellor will not pass the work capability assessment for Tory leader and the way be open to someone who’s either a bit more ideological, or will allow him space for his continued misadventures in social security. If only there was an unprincipled, opportunist celebrity chancer in the running for the leadership who fits the bill.

To be sure, IDS’s resignation is the biggest blow yet to Dave’s leadership and the his hopes of keeping the Number 10 sofa warm for Osborne. Long may this internal warfare continue.

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Tariq Ali put in his place over Brexit

March 15, 2016 at 5:57 pm (Conseravative Party, Europe, intellectuals, posted by JD, Racism, statement of the bleedin' obvious, UKIP)

Tariq Ali : Plenty of Books, little grasp of socialist a-b-c’s

I have no idea who the author of this letter, published in the present issue of the London Review Of Books, is, but he puts that self-important buffoon Tariq Ali in his place good and proper with a few home truths about the inevitable consequences of Brexit:

In or Out?
Tariq Ali, discussing the forthcoming referendum, remarks that ‘Brexit (which I support for good socialist reasons) can’t restore sovereignty (LRB, 3 March). The conclusion is certainly true, but the opinion in brackets puzzled me. A vote to leave the EU would put the right wing of the Conservative Party in the ascendency, not to mention being a huge boost to and the like, unleashing all manner of chauvinistic, jingoistic, racist ‘Little Englander’ sentiment. In the process, the Labour Party would appear to suffer yet another demoralising ‘defeat’, which would undermine its broader appeal even further. The Scots would, quite understandably, part company with the UK after their next referendum and the rump of GB Ltd would probably be left with a long-term right-wing majority and government. The fact that Tariq Ali had joined Gove, Farage, Johnson and the like to vote ‘Out’, but in his case for ‘good socialist reasons’, would not cut a lot of ice in those circumstances. However you dress it up, such an outcome would issue in any form of progressive politics, and certainly won’t aid the long march to socialism.

Carl Gardner, London EC1

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‘Trade Unionists Against the EU’ allies with Tory right … and ‘Campaign Against Euro Federalism’ allies with UKIP

November 11, 2015 at 4:33 pm (Conseravative Party, Europe, Jim D, populism, stalinism, strange situations, Tory scum, UKIP)

Protesters during David Cameron’s speech at the annual conference of the CBI in London. Sheppard and Lyon of Vote Leave protest at the the CBI conference

On Monday of this week David Cameron addressed the CBI conference in London, and was mildly heckled by two posh young men from the Vote Leave campaign.

For those who don’t follow the intricacies of anti-European factionalism in the UK, Vote Leave is an outgrowth of Business for Britain and Conservatives for Britain, both set up by long-standing Tory anti-Europeans Matthew Elliott (founder of the Taxpayer’s Alliance) and Dominic Cummings (former special adviser to Michael Gove), which for years have been pressurising Cameron and the Tory leadership for a harder line against the EU, and have now come out for withdrawal. Vote Leave claims to be a “cross party” campaign, but is overwhelmingly made up of right wing Tories with just Douglas Carswell of Ukip, Kate Hoey and a handful of Labour right-wingers, mavericks and millionaire donors, plus the Green’s eccentric Baroness Jenny Jones, giving the outfit the excuse to call itself “cross party.”

What was interesting about Monday’s protest was that while the two posh boys were protesting inside the hall, outside a small gaggle of aging Stalinist little-Englanders calling themselves Trade Unionists Against The EU, held a simultaneous protest. The two protests were quite obviously co-ordinated, and indeed, the Morning Star (Nov 10) quoted one Robert Oxley (who turns out to be Vote Leave’s Head of Media) as saying: “we will be working together closely during the campaign to do more of these protests – particularly at the AGMs of big companies who try to scare the British people into voting to remain.”

The Morning Star seems to have interviewed the two posh boys as it named them as Phil Sheppard and Peter Lyon, and quoted Mr Lyon as describing their experience as “terrifying” but “worthwhile.”

This is all a bit odd, because back in June of this year, the Morning Star carried an editorial (“Left reasons to ditch the EU“) denouncing Conservatives for Britain and Business for Britain (ie the two main constituent parts of Vote Leave) as “neoliberal and nationalist extremists” and called on trade unions, the Labour Party and the left to “develop an independent position of their own, one which represents the real interests of workers and the mass of the people across Scotland, England and Wales.”

Yet now we have the Morning Star giving sympathetic coverage to Vote Leave, and frequent Star contributor (and CPB member) Brian Denny co-ordinating the activities of Trade Unions Against the EU (of which he is, apparently, an Organiser) with Vote Leave.

But even stranger is the position  of the Campaign Against Euro-Federalism, which is to all intents and purposes, Mr Denny and a few of his friends like the ultra-nationalist little Englander (and fellow Morning Star contributor) John Boyd, just wearing different hats: the website of the other main anti-EU campaign, Leave.EU (presently battling it out with Vote Leave, for recognition as the official anti-EU campaign), set up by wealthy Ukip backer Arron Banks and virtually a front organisation for Nigel Farage and Ukip, carries the following endorsement:

CAEF

“As a well-established Eurosceptic Labour movement organisation operating for nearly 30 years, CAEF is pleased to join an organisation that seeks to represent people from all walks of life and defend national democracy, which is clearly under threat from a corporate-dominated European Union that is accruing evermore powers at the expensive of member states. No country can truly decide its own future democratically without the sovereign power to make its own laws and run its own economy in the interests of its citizens free from outside interference”, Brian Denny

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Cameron and the pig: how much did Brooker know?

September 21, 2015 at 4:47 pm (Champagne Charlie, comedy, Conseravative Party, David Cameron, good honest filth, telly, Tory scum)

 Above: a still from Black Mirror’s ‘The National Anthem’ episode, Channel 4, Dec 4 2011
 Charlie BrookerVerified account @charltonbrooker 17h17 hours ago

Perhaps the least prescient line from the script.

Embedded image permalink

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