Stop Whitehall’s daylight robbery

October 18, 2014

A letter to the Swindon Advertiser

In response to Charles Linfield (“shoring up support”, October 8th) my letter did address the question of ‘devolved’ powers to England, but was cut, presumably for reasons of space. The simplest way to devolve power from Whitehall would be to give Councils the right to keep all their income from Business Rates. Before Thatcher’s assault on local democracy Councils had more control over their income. They kept all the domestic and commercial rates they collected, and then received additional money through the Rate Support Grant. However, Whitehall has progressively taken more control over local authorities.

The impact is reflected in what central government deigns to give us from the money raised from Business Rates. David Renard has informed me that the town takes in £107 million and the government funding assessment is £65 million. In other words they fleeced us of £42 million in one year. If we were able to keep all we take in there would be no financial crisis. Read the rest of this entry »


Rolling Stock company Porterbrook sold on… again

October 14, 2014

The Financial Times reported that Porterbrook, one of the three main rolling stock companies that own Britain’s trains, has been sold for an undisclosed sum. The company owns and manages nearly 6,000 passenger and freight vehicles which are leased to train operators such as Great Western Trains, South West Trains and Northern Rail.

Porterbrook has been sold to a consortium which includes an Australian asset manager Hastings, Canada’s Alberta Investment Management Corporation and EDF Invest of France. Porterbrook has been sold on a number of times since it was set up in 1994 when British Rail was privatised. At the time there were two other companies set up by the government, Angel Trains and Eversholt. Each received about one third of the rolling stock. Read the rest of this entry »


The Financial Times is worried by “a conspiracy of obfuscation”

September 30, 2014

There was an interesting Financial Times editorial today on “the central fact of British politics, the fiscal deficit”. It bemoans the forecast that the (current account) deficit will be £87 billion this year, after 4 years of “tight fiscal policy”. This crisis “demands candour and big thinking from the main political parties” yet it is being met “by ambiguity at best and outright dishonesty at worst.” The FT is not very happy with the Tories who should be offering a contrast to Labour’s “delusion”.

“Instead they crow about an economic recovery that is yet to show up in the public finances.” Read the rest of this entry »


EVEL – a constitutional minefield

September 30, 2014

A letter to the Swindon Advertiser

Rob Buckland says that ‘English votes for English laws’ (EVEL) is a simple matter of ‘fairness’ and that the linking of that issue with greater powers for the Scottish Assembly is the right thing to do. In fact this was an opportunist attempt by Cameron to put Labour on the spot and to outmanoeuvre UKIP by presenting the Tory Party as the one which ‘stands up for the English’. As an Observer editorial commented: “What started out looking like a plan to save the union ended up looking like a device to entrench the Tory Party in power…”  Read the rest of this entry »


Has the Scottish referendum thrown the UK into a political and constitutional crisis?

September 26, 2014

The first in a series on the consequences of the Scottish referendum

Download a PDF of this here: postscotref

Writing in the Observer Anne McElvoy said: “…this is not a victory, just an avoidance of disaster for the main parties at Westminster.” Except it may yet turn into a disaster for them in any case. Although it’s a cliché Pandora’s box has definitely been opened. The consequences of this ‘victory’ are far reaching. Why? Because the three wise men (Cameron, Clegg and Miliband), desperate at the possibility of ‘losing the union’, offered increased powers in their ‘vow’ to Scotland. They did so without any mandate from their political Parties. They have failed to think through the consequences of their actions. Peter Henessy has ventured that the manner of the referendum pledges have left “a constitutional building site, devoid of a construction plan”.

Having ‘saved the union’ the man from Eton then proceeded to try to turn the result to his advantage by linking these increased powers with ‘English Votes for English Laws’. What concerns him is not a discussion on ‘a new constitutional settlement’ but saving his own bacon. This tactical ploy was designed to put Labour on the spot, mobilise ‘English nationalism’ and outmanoeuvre UKIP by presenting the Tory party as the one ‘standing up for the English’. As reports in the media over the weekend indicate Cameron not only didn’t get the agreement of the Liberal Democrats, he didn’t even get the agreement of Tory Cabinet members. Read the rest of this entry »


Palestinian workers fighting for union recognition, Zarfati Garage, Mishor Adumim

August 30, 2014

Mishor Adumim is an industrial park located in the industrial zone of the Israeli West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, about 7 kilometres from Jerusalem. The town was granted official status as a ‘permanent’ settlement in 1977 after Menachim Begin took office. In the late 1990’s around 1,000 Bedouin were forced to move from land that now forms part of the settlement. In 2012 the population was 39,000.

According to the Jerusalem Post, in 2011 Mishor Adumim hosted 220 businesses, among them textile plants, garages, food manufacturers, aluminium and metal working factories, and printing companies. One of these garages, Zarfati, has 50 Palestinian workers who are involved in a fight for union recognition. They are members of the Israeli Workers Advice Center (WAC) which helped them set up a workers committee and start negotiations with the management for a collective agreement. (Download a PDF here zarfati or continue reading below)

Read the rest of this entry »


From one Israeli pogrom to another

August 4, 2014

Download a PDF of this article here israelipogrom

Israel is in trouble. Not because of the threat from Hamas rockets but because its barbaric assault on Gaza is so patently out of all proportion to the threat they face that even their traditional supporters are raising questions about their strategy. IT’s traditional supporters admit as much. Even Tory MPs are criticising the UK government. The Economist has written an editorial entitled “winning the battle, but losing the war” (the war, that is, for world opinion), subtitled “For all its military might, Israel faces a grim future unless it can secure peace”. Yet the Israeli regime does not want a negotiated peace. Indeed Netanyahu has recently said that there is no way that Israel can relinquish security on the West Bank for fear of Islamist attack. The Palestinian people cannot be trusted with self-rule. As the Economist says, that implies an intention to consolidate the occupation. Netanyahu stated that any “peace agreement” would have to include Israeli military control of the West Bank “for a very long time”. At a Hebrew language press conference on July 11th, not widely reported in the English media, he clarified that: “There cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan”. In other words any ‘sovereign’ Palestinian state would not be allowed sovereignty over its territory. Read the rest of this entry »


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