The Tories continue their localization agenda, this time by informing councils who they can or cannot procure products from:

The Guardian reports that “new rules will stop politically motivated boycott and divestment campaigns by town halls against UK defence companies and against Israel.”

“The government will amend pension legislation to make clear using pensions and procurement policies to pursue boycotts, divestments and sanctions campaigns against foreign nations and the UK defence industry are inappropriate, unless they are in line with action on a national level.”

Apparently, local councils will be banned from boycotting goods produced on the illegally occupied West Bank, in violation of international law and basic moral decency.

They will also be forced to invest the pensions of public sector workers in murderous defence companies and firms that do business with Israel, whether local people like it or not.

This is a naked attempt to defang one of the more effective ways to oppose militarism, and to attack the power of local councils to control their own pension funds. As such, it is extremely undemocratic, while all being pursued under a spurious anti-extremism, community harmony banner.

Interestingly, this attack on local government comes after it emerged that councils across the UK remain heavily exposed to fossil fuel investments. Each local government employee has around £3,000 in fossil fuel investments locked up in their pension funds and there is around £14 billion of public sector pension money in such firms.

The government don’t want councils to shape economic policy and encourage divestment from fossil fuels, any more than they want bomb manufacturers to lose out or Israel to leave the West Bank.


From the Guardian:

“Vladimir Putin’s military operations appear aimed at a wider foe – opposition groups who have wrested control of large amounts of territory from the Assad regime and who are inching closer to his strongholds in central and western Syria, as well as Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaida’s wing in the country….Russian jets have bombed targets in the provinces of Homs, Hama, Idlib and Aleppo, in areas where Isis has no major presence, and where opposition groups, including some backed by the US and Gulf states, hold sway.”

“Terrified residents of affected areas increasingly believe the US has reached a tacit agreement with Russia to preserve the Assad regime. There is also increased sympathy for al-Qaida and its message of American weakness.”

Bombs won’t work.

The Telegraph carries what on the face of things is a damning gotcha piece regarding Corbyn and Richard Murphy’s tax plans:

“Britons should be levied with a new £100billion “tax on consumption” paid directly from their bank accounts, according to Jeremy Corbyn’s tax adviser…Richard Murphy, who drafted some of Mr Corbyn’s economic policies during the Labour leadership campaign, said people’s money should be taxed as they spend it.

…The controversial measure is set out in Mr Murphy’s new book, called The Joy of Tax, which is published this week…Mr Murphy (below) says in the book that the new consumption tax could raise over £100billion a year and replace National Insurance Contributions, which disproportionately hits poorer people.

…It says: “I think that a progressive tax on the total sum paid into and out of people’s and companies’ bank accounts is now essential…“This simply requires that the rate charged increase as the total payments into and out of bank accounts connected to a person increase…“This is the tax that can, in the 21st century, end the absurd need to tax labour and its wealth creation and instead shift that tax to excessive consumption, a shift we know is now needed.”

I mention the Telegraph piece because it is the only one I have found that actually mentions Murphy’s thinking on tax (aside from an article the Sun, which is behind what is probably the web’s least attractive paywall).

From Richard Murphy’s own Tax Research website, a more complex and accurate picture emerges:

a) Murphy doesn’t think that National Insurance works: “Because it is regressive. Because it can discourage job creation. Because it was designed for a world where people were employed in one job, often for life. Because it is too easily avoided. Because the contributory concept has long gone. Because it no longer works as a result.”

b) What Murphy calls a “progressive consumption tax” would be fairer and a more efficient way of raising revenue: “For those on median pay very little tax would be due. The same would be true of small businesses. But as personal spending grows or as the size of business does so would the tax charge.”

The Telegraph may not be dissembling by claiming that “YOUR BANK ACCOUNT” will be plundered by a Corbyn government, if we assume that the “Your” in question refers to a tiny sliver of the rich – the paper’s natural constituency. But everyone else should welcome a more progressive alternative to NI contributions.

It is interesting to read papers like the Telegraph at the moment. Spurred on by the election of Corbyn and the leftward drift of the Labour Party, the far right press is giving plenty of space to the ideas of people around the Corbyn camp. In the process, ideas that have been out of favour on the mainstream left for decades are enjoying enviable exposure – as in this litany of the policies proposed by Corbyn’s economic adviser Andrew Fisher [“Ban sackings, scrap the City, create a three-day week: The world according to Jeremy Corbyn’s new political adviser“].

Most readers are not deeply invested in the ideology behind the papers they read. They take what they will. When people read that two thirds of British land is owned by 0.3% of the people, that with technological progress working weeks can be shortened, that private renters could be given the right to buy from exploitative landlords or that workers could assume onwership of the companies they work for – not all of them will sneer or recoil in horror.

The genie is out of the bottle – be careful what you wish for.


October 1, 2015

It’s strange how Jeremy Corbyn can be attacked so brutally by the commentariat for not being economically credible, while on the other hand, when he states that he wishes to do away with a perfectly useless £100 billion weapons system that, if used, will betoken the end of civilization, this is seen as incredible.

The campaign group Syria Solidarity UK has called a demonstration against the Russian bombings in Syria to be held on Saturday 3rd October, outside the Russian Embassy in London, 6-7 Kensington Palace Gardens, London W8 4QP.

putin syriaSSU state that:

“Syria’s air force has been using Russian-supplied aircraft to kill civilians for years. Today the Russian air force killed Syrian civilians, bombing opposition-held areas. Putin’s government claims to be fighting ISIS, but these are not ISIS-held areas. This is instead a ruthless campaign to keep Putin’s client Assad in power.

Supported with Russian arms and money, the Assad regime has been to date the biggest killer in Syria, killing seven times as many civilians as ISIS this year. Putin has long been complicit in this slaughter; today there can no longer be any pretence otherwise.

While Assad has been helped by Putin, those nations supposedly standing with the Syrian people in their struggle for freedom have failed to match words with actions; have failed to enforce UN Security Council resolutions; have failed to protect civilians.

Demand an end to Assad’s and Putin’s slaughter.

Stand with Syrians fighting the tyranny of Assad, the terror of ISIS, and the imperialism of Putin.

Protect civilians.”

Interesting article on the Kurdish position viz Russian air strikes. According to Middle East Eye, the YPG (which is fighting for the revolutionary democratic experiment in Rojava) has welcomed Russian airstrikes against IS targets.

Idriss Nassan, the foreign minister of the Kobane enclave, told Sputnik TV in Russia that the Kurds would welcome any assistance, military or otherwise, from pretty much anyone.

“We want it from Turkey, we want it from Russia, and we want it from the United States” he said, adding that “We are ready to co-operate with anyone who fights against IS.” Tellingly, Nassan also backed Russian strikes against non-IS groups such as the Al Nusra Front.

This will be seen as stretching the unity of the Free Syrian Army even more thinly – as both the Kurds and Al Nusra are nominally members.

It also suggests that we should be cautious about assuming that Kurdish groups will oppose Russia’s pro-Assad intervention. However, the Kurds themselves are deeply divided on political and strategic lines.

If the Russians, Iranians, Hezbollah and government forces were serious about wiping out IS as a purely anti-terrorist exercise, the Kurds would be on firmer ground, but in this case, as I’m sure they know, the enemy of their enemy is certainly not their friend.

Once again, Russian jets have bombarded targets in Syria, as Putin’s pro-Assad intervention intensifies, and civilians suffer.

According to the BBC, “The [Russian] defence ministry said its jets had destroyed an IS ammunition depot and control centres.”

However, “The latest attacks reportedly hit sites in the north-west held by the Army of Conquest rebel alliance, as well as areas in Homs and Hama provinces.” Not IS strongholds by any means. The Army of Conquest includes jihadists, to be sure – from groups like Al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham – but it is not affiliated to the Islamic State.

Other sources suggest that a mosque in Jisr Al Shughur was “flattened” by today’s Russian bombs.

The attacks against the Army of Conquest, which includes moderate Islamist groups, is purely motivated by strategic considerations. The group has been advancing against government positions in recent weeks, and Putin wants to roll it back.

Naturally, when air strikes are flattening mosques and killing civilians, this will have the effect of bolstering anti-government sentiment in rebel held areas. There are currently no reports concerning civilian casualties from today’s bombings, but there will be.

Yesterday’s bombings in Telbiseh have provoked an angry response from local Turkmen people, who are more closely linked to the Free Syrian Army than any Islamist groups.

A statement from the Syrian Turkmen Assembly, which is based in Turkey, said that 40 Turkmen civilians had died and “strongly condemn[ed] Russia, which was not satisfied with its unlimited support of the murderous regime and now rains down bombs on the Syrian people, promising ‘democracy’”.

There have been immediate charges that accounts of civilian casualties are manufactured propaganda. However, given the past history of aerial warfare, it is obscene to make such an assumption while innocent people are killed.

Russian bombs are no better than suicide bombs or bombs from American drones, and they are no more likely to create a workable peace in Syria.