Amid the sound and fury surrounding the RMT’s strike on Southern Rail, one name is gradually emerging as having played a crucial role in having ensured the action went ahead: Peter Wilkinson.
Mr Wilkinson is managing director of passenger services at the Department for Transport (DfT).
The RMT says that last week it was “within an inch” of reaching an agreement during talks at Acas. This account is backed by unnamed “sources” who told The Times that a deal had been “within touching distance” but that Southern’s negotiators had suddenly pulled out of the talks at about 4pm on Friday, leading to the collapse of the talks.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT can confirm that we were within an inch of making progress towards boxing off a deal with Southern in Acas talks on Friday afternoon that was based on the offer from ScotRail, an offer that enabled us to suspend all industrial action in the ScotRail guards dispute.
“We were just getting into the detailed wording when suddenly the plug was pulled and our legs were kicked from under us.
“We have it on good authority that the deal, which would have enabled us to suspend the Southern strike action this week, was sabotaged by the Government with their director of rail, Peter Wilkinson, directing operations from outside the talks.
“We are now taking our protest direct to the DfT.
“We want the Government to stop weaponising the Southern dispute for political purposes and we want them to stop treating passengers and staff as collateral damage in a war that Peter Wilkinson has unilaterally declared on the rail unions.”
It appears to be the case that Wilkinson (paid £280,000 per year) intervened to instruct Southern’s parent company, Govia Thameslink Railway, to reject the deal.
Last year, Britain experienced a net immigration rate of 333,000 – though the real figure may be far higher than our unreliable statistics suggest. Many voters perceive a squeeze on public services and fear a loss of control over security. Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary, has claimed that freedom of movement rules have prevented him from denying entry to people with a criminal record, or even those who have suspected links to terrorism.
Australia is not necessarily perceived as being anti-immigration so much as a country that demands and gets precisely what it wants.
A points system would not necessarily achieve the results that every Eurosceptic is looking for. The Prime Minister has countered that Australia actually “has more migration per head than we do here in the UK”. But Australia is not necessarily perceived as being anti-immigration so much as a country that demands and gets precisely what it wants. As a member of the EU, Britain essentially has to take as many people as wish to come. Outside the EU, the argument goes, it would only have to take the numbers that employers actually need.
Above: the authentic face of ‘Leave’
The attractiveness of this argument will surely cause Remain a little panic. The referendum is increasingly being cast not just as a vote on the EU but on David Cameron’s record in office – and his many promises on reducing migration remain embarrassingly unfulfilled. That criticism is only intensifying from members of his own party gives the impression that this referendum is in fact a choice between two varieties of conservatism. Thanks to Labour’s near silence on Europe, there is a case for saying that this is what it has become.
If Leave can use issues such as immigration to reconstruct the Thatcherite coalition of the Eighties – an alliance between the patriotic Right and the usually Left-wing working class – they could reshape politics for years to come. What it will hopefully bring in the next few weeks is a new energy to the discussion. After so much negativity and hysteria from Remain, Leave has offered a positive agenda – an agenda that could rally their troops and give Britain the debate it deserves.
Speech delivered 20th June (NB: not the same as his piece in yesterday’s Guardian)
May I start by expressing Unite’s shock at the death of Jo Cox and our deepest sympathy to her family.
We can only hope that the outpouring of grief from across the nation will help Jo’s husband, Brendan and his family in these unbearable times.
Her death places in context what is really important in our lives.
She was, of course, a passionate advocate for the Remain campaign and would surely want political debate to continue.
Brothers and Sisters,
As this referendum campaign draws towards a close, I think everyone can agree on two things.
First, it matters. As we come up close to the moment of decision, this feels like one of the most important votes any of us will cast in our lives.
And second, this is close. The elite complacency of the start of the campaign, that this was just a quick canter to the winning post for REMAIN, has disappeared.
This could go either way.
For those two reasons, I wanted to speak out directly, both to and on behalf of the members of Unite, the biggest trade union in the United Kingdom, also as someone who can legitimately claim to know the hopes and fears of the working-class communities across the country, the sort of community I grew up in and have kept my roots in.
There is no need for a spoiler alert – Unite is fighting all the way for a Remain vote, and for Britain and British workers to build their future in unity with the rest of Europe.
But I have not come here to lecture or to patronise those working people who take a different view. Who can be surprised that in so many industrial areas, voting for the status quo is not exactly a popular option?
I am just asking all those people, including many Unite members, to reflect on their concerns, and whether they would be best addressed by staying in Europe, or by a Brexit.
And I want to flag up what I believe will happen to working people on the morrow of a vote to leave.
Let me turn first to the issue of IMMIGRATION:
Some pundits and commentators, like explorers returning from a visit to the deep unknown, are stunned to find that this has become an issue.
I for one am not in the least surprised. I understand those concerns. They are NOT, for the greatest part, anything to do with racism or xenophobia.
They are to do with the systematic attempt by our greedy elite to hold down wages and cut the costs of social provision for working people.
Let us be clear – what has been done in the last ten years is a gigantic experiment at the expense of ordinary workers. Countries with vast historical differences in wage rates and living standards have been brought together in a common labour market. The result has been huge downward pressure on living standards.
What happens when two hundred workers are competing for jobs where previously only ten did? Wages are frozen or cut.
What happens when workers can move from a country where a job pays £5 an hour to one where the same job pays £20? The answer is that many do so move, and the same job then ends up paying just £12 an hour.
That is why trade unions have never been in favour of a so-called free labour market. Control of the labour supply in an industry or across society has always been the core of our mission, to ensure that workers get their fair share of the wealth they create.
But let me be clear about something else. Pulling up the drawbridge against the rest of Europe is the wrong answer. Read the rest of this entry »
The man accused of murdering Jo Cox gave his name in court as “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain”. As he (allegedly) shot and stabbed the MP to death he cried “Britain First” or “Put Britain First”.
It is now established that he had links with the far-right. It seems very likely that he is mentally ill. We do not know to what extent the anti-Europe campaign fuelled his murderous hatred, but those of who believe that political rhetoric inevitably has practical consequences are obliged to point out that the poisonous, racist campaign for Brexit has created precisely the political context for murderous violence of this kind. Just a few hours before the murder, Farage unveiled a poster showing Syrian refugees fleeing to Slovenia as though this was a threat to the UK: a clear incitement to racial hatred:
Remain campaigners have, on the whole, been reluctant to publicly link the murder with the racism of the Brexit campaign, but some have now had the guts to start doing so. I recommend Polly Toynbee here, Alex Massie here and Jonathan Freedland here.
Alan Woods at Socialist Appeal makes some good points here, but eventually bottles it by trying to argue that the official Brexit and Remain campaigns are equally culpable – something that is demonstrably untue.
Economists often get things wrong, and the gist of the economists’ opinion is that Brexit would disrupt the regular flows of the global capitalist economy, thus pushing down trade and investment into Britain.
Most enlightening is what the pro-Brexit minority of economists say. The “Economists for Brexit” group led by veteran Thatcherite Patrick Minford has produced a report.
As ardent free-market ideologues, they argue that a capitalist Britain outside the EU will do well because it will have fewer constraints on the rapacity of the free market.
They object to the EU because “the EU has pressed for social legislation (such as the 2003 Working Time Directive and the 2004 Gender Equality Directive) that adds to companies’ costs”.
Their list would probably also include the Agency Workers’ Directive, TUPE, and redundancy-payment laws.
They also object because “European governments have been more emphatic than the global average about the dangers of global warming” and so the EU has pushed Britain to “adopt the renewables agenda with greater zeal… Coal-fired power stations have been closed down, offshore wind farms built and so on…”
The Brexit campaigners disagree among themselves on what trade deals Britain should do on quitting the EU. The economists go for a radical option: “What other trade agreements do we need? My advice would be: none”. Not the Norwegian model, not the Swiss model, not the Canadian model, not even the Albanian model favoured by Michael Gove.
The pro-Brexit economists argue that Britain should scrap all barriers to imports, and seek nothing more than World Trade Organisation rules for its exports. In their calculations the benefit of cheaper imports outweighs the consequent job losses.
On immigration, the economists differ from the Ukip-minded majority of Brexit campaigners in that they want more non-EU immigration and less immigration from the EU.
There, spelled out clearly, is the second core Brexit argument after the basic Ukip “hate-migrants” case. It is an argument for Britain as an offshore, low-regulation, low-social-overheads, environmentally-reckless site for global capital.
Whether their scheme would “work” in its own terms is doubtful. That it represents the way Brexit points, socially and economically, is not.
The way to fight the neoliberal policies of the EU leadership is by starting from the limited integration across borders created by the EU, and working for cross-border solidarity around demands for social levelling-up, democracy, and more open borders.
On 24 June Brexit begins. Cameron resigns. Boris Johnson becomes prime minister, Michael Gove becomes chancellor. With Ukip’s role over, Nigel Farage and company join the Tory party. Scotland leaves Britain. The rump gets a new name (as it can’t be called the UK) – KEWNI – and a new flag
Anti-democratic developments begun under the pre-Brexit government are extended. The Tories form KEWNI’s governments for decades to come. The post-EU economic shock is compounded by the structural problems derived from KEWNI’s dysfunctional capitalism (low productivity, weak innovation etc) and its semi-feudal state. Excluded from the European single market, KEWNI is forced closer to the US and China. Having no choice, it accepts a version of the TTIP with the US. Having shunned the EU’s collective sovereignty, it has no power to insist on safeguards. US companies begin to take over the NHS; Chinese companies, manufacturing and real estate.
Accelerated economic decline inevitably follows. The Johnson/Gove response is even more austerity. The xenophobia currently directed at EU migrants becomes directed inward – against people of colour. Inequality and poverty escalate and dispossessed KEWNIs mobilise in struggle. The government response is repression, both covert and overt. Gradually, KEWNI becomes dominated by an ultra-rightwing nationalism: a version of fascism with “gentlemanly” English characteristics.
Is this what Brexiters seek for our country? Jeffrey Henderson Professor of international development, University of Bristol
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.
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.”
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:
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.
Above: Johnson’s lies on the EU exposed by fellow Tory Andrew Tyrie
The liar, cheat, hypocrite and malevolent clown Boris Johnson has done something many observers would have thought impossible: taken the Tory campaign against Labour’s Sadiq Kahn in London down to new depths of filth, thinly-disguised racism and mendacity.
The Tory candidate, Zac Goldsmith has put out a leaflet calling Khan “radical and divisive”, obviously with the implication that Khan is linked to radical Islamism and perhaps even to terrorism. In another leaflet, directly mailed to people Goldsmith’s team considered likely to be of Indian or Sri Lankan backgrounds (based on their names), Goldsmith has suggested that Khan would tax “family jewellery”.
In fact, Khan is a socially liberal Muslim who has been outspoken in his support for gay rights (including gay marriage), womens’ rights and opposition to anti-Semitism. He has even criticised the present Labour leadership for (in his view) not tackling anti-Semitism with sufficient vigour.
And yet Johnson, writing in today’s Daily Telegraphhas the audacity to try to brand Khan an anti-Semite by association: there are some anti-Semites in the Labour Party and Khan is a member of the Labour Party – ipso facto Khan is an anti-Semite, or at least tainted with it. Johnson does, in fact, begrudgingly acknowledge that Khan has spoken out against anti-Semitism in the Party (or, as Johnson puts it, has “belatedly admitted that Labour is afflicted with anti-Semitism”) before going on to accuse Khan of “sharing platforms with some of the most backward and sectarian forces in Islam” … without mentioning the fact that Khan has often used those platforms to criticise such people to their faces.
Oh yes, Johnson mentions that one of the Islamists Khan shared a platform with, Sulaiman Ghani, has “denounced gays.” Johnson, it seems, is a great defender of gay rights. These days. According to himself.
Tory ex-MP Matthew Parris (who has been openly gay for many years) recently (March 26) wrote a scathing attack on Johnson, in The Times (unfortunately, Murdoch’s pay-wall prevents me from linking to it beyond the opening sentences, here). Parris begins his piece thus:
Parody is now extinct. Boris Johnson has killed the distinction between reality and satire. Remember the Tory who as a wannabe MP called Labour’s repeal of Section 28 “appalling”, who joked about “tank-topped bum-boys”, who sneakily rowed back from homophobia by asking “what’s not to like?” about gays who leave the field of available women clear for straight men? He is now urging gay men to vote Leave because, he says, some Eastern European countries have legislation that represses them
“It was us” he burbles on a new Out & Proud video, “the British people, that created [an] environment of happiness and contentment for LGBT people. It may well have been us. It ruddy well wasn’t him. But now, even into gay saunas creeps the smell of his damp tweed.
Parris’ entire piece is well worth reading and sometime in the future I may well risk the wrath of Murdoch’s lawyers by republishing the whole thing. But for now, I’ll content myself with republishing the transcript (again, brought to us courtesy of Parris in The Times) of Johnson giving his criminal friend Darius Guppy the details of a journalist Guppy wanted beaten up. Johnson was concerned about how badly the journalist would be injured, because the assault might be linked to himself:
Johnson: “I really want to know …”
Guppy: “I guarantee you he will not be seriously hurt.”
Johnson: “How badly will he…”
Guppy [interrupting]: “He will not have a broken limb or broken arm, he will not be put into intensive care or anything like that. He’ll probably get a couple of black eyes and a cracked rib or something.”
Johnson: “Cracked rib? If I get trouble, if I get…I got this bloody number for you. OK Darrie. I said I’d do it. I’ll do it. Don’t worry.”
And this creature, Boris Johnson, has the nerve to write that Sadiq Khan is unfit to be Mayor of London because he, Khan, is – on the basis of no evidence whatsoever from Johnson – “pandering to the extremists”! Johnson is not (as even some on the left seem to think) an amusing buffoon: he’s a filthy, racist hypocrite and scumbag.
A squirming Cameron finally admits to having profited from his late father’s offshore investment fund
By Martin Thomas (edited by JD: the full article appears in the current issue of Solidarity)
Each week the capitalist economic system pumps new wealth, created by the labour of workers across the whole economy, into the pockets of owners and shareholders and their associates, advisers, bankers, lawyers, and so on.
No-one denies that. Those who defend capitalism as the best system available reply only that it is a manageable problem.
The greed for riches (so they say) motivates the capitalist class to innovate and improve efficiency. And the rich pay taxes. And they put their wealth into new investments which create new jobs. The Panama Papers show that in fact the rich hide their money in offshore tax havens and often pay little tax. They invest productively only when they feel fairly sure of large private gains, and much of their loot is spent on luxury and on swindling.
The papers, revealed on 3 April, are a stash of documents from just one law firm, Mossack Fonseca, based in Panama, which specialises in helping the rich by setting up for them obscure companies in which to hide their wealth, based in low-tax areas.
Many of these companies are in the British Virgin Islands, a tiny group of Caribbean islands which is a British Overseas Territory, but outside British tax laws. The islands are home to just 28,000 inhabitants, but to 950,000 companies.
As lawyer Geoffrey Robertson says: “Britain is at the heart… of international tax avoidance by allowing these little remnants of empire to have tax secrecy laws and enable offshore trusts and offshore companies to operate without transparency”.
Not all “shadow banking” (banking-type operations by non-banks) is offshored, but a lot is.
Still booming in fact, according to a recent Financial Times report, doubled in numbers in London since the 2008 crash, are family offices, firms of lawyers and financiers employed by wealthy families to manage their loot and save it from taxes.
The working class, which produces that wealth, should keep it in common ownership and under democratic control.
As the socialist Jean Jaures said in the French parliament when a great financial scandal of the 19th century, also called Panama, broke: “It isn’t enough to brand and denounce the scandals… It would be a sad contradiction not to take up the struggle against that power that holds the railroads, the banks, and all the large enterprises…It’s the beginning of the trial of the dying social order, and we are here to substitute for it a more just social order”.
The 19th century scandal has another lesson. To go beyond indignation to propose socialist solutions, taking the loot back into common ownership may also be necessary to stop the scandal being exploited by right-wing demagogues who are in fact the looters’ friends.
Frederick Engels wrote about the 19th century Panama: “This business brings the moment considerably nearer when our people will become the only possible leaders of the state in France. Only, things ought not to move too quickly; our people in France are not ripe for power by a long way…In the meantime, that ass Boulanger [a proto-fascist anti-semitic demagogue who had come close to seizing power in 1889] had not shot himself [which he did, literally, in 1891, first having fled to exile], he would now be master of the situation… If only some general or other does not swing himself to the top during the interval of clarification and start war, that is the one danger”.