Whatever stance taken by followers of the British Labour Party on the subject of antisemitism within its ranks, the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn must be seen as an exercise of muscle on the part of Sir Keir Starmer. Since coming to the leadership, Starmer’s popularity has risen, catching up to that of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. But Corbyn and the Corbynistas lingered, irritating reminders of a previous revolution of the left to be subjugated and marginalised. The report on antisemitism in the British Labour Party by the Equality and Human Rights Commission presented a chance.
In July 2019, the EHRC announced that it was investigating the party “after receiving a number of complaints of allegations of antisemitism within the Party.” It proceeded to look at whether the Party had committed unlawful acts; handled complaints of antisemitism “in a lawful, efficient and effective way”; had adequate complaints handling, investigatory and disciplinary processes that were efficient and effective, “including whether appropriate sanctions have been or could be applied”; and whether steps were taken by the Party “to implement the recommendations made in the Chakrabarti, Royall and Home Affairs Committee Reports.”
The EHRC report released on October 29 identified, in the words of the Interim Chair, Caroline Waters, “specific examples of harassment, discrimination and political interference in our evidence” and “a lack of leadership within the Labour Party on these issues, which is hard to reconcile with its stated commitment to a zero-tolerance approach to antisemitism.” The executive summary pointed to “serious failings in leadership and an adequate process for handling antisemitism complaints across the Party,” including “multiple failures in the systems it uses to resolve them.” Three breaches of the Equality Act were identified, covering political interference in complaints of antisemitism complaints; the inadequate provision of training to those handling such complaints and cases of harassment.
The report identifies two specific instances of harassment against its members on antisemitic grounds: former London Mayor Ken Livingstone and local Rossendale Borough Councillor Pam Bromley. Livingstone was singled out for his claims in 2016 that attacks on MP Naz Shah for purported antisemitic social media posts were “part of a smear campaign by ‘the Israel Jewish lobby’ to stigmatise critics of Israel as antisemitic” designed to “undermine and disrupt the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn MP.” Bromley, for her part, was taken to task for using antisemitic tropes: the Jewish conspiracy, manipulating political processes and being a “fifth column.”
Despite these purplish standouts, the EHRC, while considering a “significant number” of other complaints demonstrating “what we considered to be antisemitic conduct”, found insufficient evidence showing that the Labour Party had been legally responsible or the conduct; that it was from an “ordinary” member of the Party, for which it could not be responsible for under equality law; and insufficient evidence that “the harmful effect of the conduct” had outweighed “the freedom of the expression rights of the individual concerned.”
In responding to the report, Corbyn accepted that, “Jewish members of our party and the wider community were right to expect us to deal with it,” expressing “regret that it took longer to deliver that change than it should.” Those claiming there was no antisemitism in the Labour Party were wrong. “Of course there is, as there is throughout society, and sometimes it is voiced by people who think of themselves as on the left.”
He pointed out that many of the processes scrutinised and criticised as wanting in the report were already there prior to his leadership. Firmer measures were put in place after 2018, in the face of party bureaucracy. But a large, and for his opponents gaping opening, was left with his insistence that “the scale of the problem was dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media.” That “combination … hurt Jewish people and must never be repeated.”
As Ronan Burtenshaw, editor of Tribune, is right to note, Corbyn has some merit in making reference to exaggeration for political purposes. Individual complainants had, in some cases, been responsible for a veritable tsunami of grievance, most unfounded. There were unsubstantiated statements from various MPs, including Margaret Hodge, who herself filed a hundred antisemitism complaints, eighty of which involved people with no connection with Labour or its party structures.
With factional considerations now lit, Labour Party general secretary David Evans, a close ally of Starmer, suspended Corbyn within a matter of hours, despite being unable to say which party rule had been breached. “I was very disappointed in Jeremy Corbyn’s statement,” claimed the Labour leader, “and appropriate action has been taken, which I fully support.” A satisfied Hodge felt that suspending Corbyn was the “right thing decision” following his “shameful reaction to the EHRC report.”
Evans assumed the mantle as the torchbearer of the right faction of the party, replacing Corbyn’s ally Jennie Formby in May. Spokesman of Labour Against Antisemitism Euan Philips had words of cautious praise for the appointment at the time: not only was it a relief to have a figure from “outside the hard left” in that role, Evans had “a huge job to tackle institutional anti-Jewish racism in the party.”
With such sentiments in mind, both Evans and Starmer have essentially manoeuvred the party into a position where the mere hint of scepticism about the scale of antisemitism within Labour will be excoriated and expunged. As Starmer explained on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, “I made it clear the Labour Party I lead will not tolerate antisemitism, neither will it tolerate the argument that denies or minimises antisemitism in the Labour Party on the basis that it’s exaggerated or a factional row.” This is despite the acceptance by the EHRC that Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights protecting freedom of expression “will protect Labour Party members who … make legitimate criticisms of the Israeli government, or express their opinions on internal Party matters, such as the scale of antisemitism within the Party, based on their own experience and within the law.”
While the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg saw no “deliberately designed collision between the current party boss and his predecessor” it is hard to ignore the alignment of the stars. Starmer wants to cement his credentials and iron out the creases; Jeremy Corbyn, with his obstinacy and loyal defenders, present potential future obstacles to his plans. A civil war beckons, with antisemitism fashioned as factional spear tips.
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Clouds or clowns? The week’s politics offers both. A toxic miasma of 250 million tonnes of CO2 and clouds of sooty bushfire-smoke blanket vast tracts of eastern Australia yet also expose the Morrison government’s total leadership fail, while professional clown, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has a huge win over truth, justice and democracy in the UK. In the US, Democrats finalise two articles of impeachment that are unlikely to bother President, Donald Teflon Trump.
“There is no Republican Party,” John Boehner, who served as House Speaker from 2011 to 2015, said last year. “There’s a Trump party. The Republican Party is kind of taking a nap somewhere.”
Ditto for the UK Conservative Party. And for Australia’s Liberals who retain the name only as some sick joke. Hilarious. Meanwhile, is Gus the badly-burned victim of the author of The Beauty Myth‘s vicious, anti-Semitism or is he just crying wolf? Could Angus Taylor be making some kind of Johnsonian run to be Australia’s next Prime Minister ? You decide.
What’s clear is Energy, Emission Reduction and Round-up Minister, Angus Taylor, is under a cloud of his own; the noxious emanations of allegations of outrageous water rorting, document forging and alleged lobbying of an environmental compliance officer (ECO) in 2016. The explanation he allegedly offers does not stack up.
Taylor sought permission to poison kangaroo or red anther wallaby grass and an associated threatened ecological community in the thirty hectare Jam Land grasslands in Monaro region NSW, a property located outside his electorate of Hume, weakening Taylor’s claim that his meeting was prompted solely by his constituents’ concerns.
Taylor did, however, meet with Geoff Richardson, the Department of Environment and Energy’s Assistant Secretary for the protected species and communities branch.
The department had prepared a briefing document on the grasslands which explained that the species had been protected since 2000 and that, collectively, temperate grasslands are among the most threatened vegetation in Australia, with only about 5% remaining in relatively undisturbed condition. It’s an indictment of our introduced agricultural practices and our land abuse.
Jam Land Pty Ltd is a Taylor family linked company in which one of Angus’ Cayman Island-registered companies has an interest through his family investment company Gufee. His brother, Richard Taylor, is the director of the company.
Now parliament’s shut its doors for 2019, hola! Gus is off like the clappers to Madrid. Labor wouldn’t grant him a pair, what with Scott Morrison’s erstwhile neighbour, former bin brother and mate, top NSW cop, Commissioner Mick Fuller, at the head of a strike force, he says is actively investigating Taylor over Clover gate.
Barnaby Joyce says Clover gate is a “triviality” which has gone on far too long. Leaking a false document to the Daily Tele to discredit Clover Moore is trivial? All the mayor has done is write to Taylor; tell him to lift his game on climate change.
Australia has already earned the Fossil of the Day award. Twice. Will Taylor, a noted wind-energy critic with close coal industry links be having another public tilt at windmills? Nope. Instead he ties up the conference with Kyoto credit nonsense.
Just to get the facts in context, Australia is responsible for about 1.3% of annual pollution, as our PM is fond of boasting. But this places us 16th on a ladder of polluting nations. We emit more each year than 40 countries with larger populations, including G7 members Britain, France and Italy.
Talk about punching below your weight.
Gus gives a speech which reprises former Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s twaddle about our “meeting and beating our targets” (but only if we cheat; use our carry over from Kyoto cop-out). Courageously, Taylor skips our outrageous plans to use 411m tonnes of CO2-equivalent credits from the previous Kyoto targets against the government’s newer Paris commitment. But he leaves it to delegates to resolve.
Absent from any reporting, or any Australian communication, is the story of how Howard Government Senator Robert Hill argued late in the night in Kyoto in 1997; how reliant Australia is on fossil fuel industries. How we needed a special favour. Hill got his way. Whereas Europe promised to reduce emissions by 8% by 2012, compared with the base year of 1990, and the US agreed to cut by 7%, Australia was one of three countries allowed to increase emissions – by 8%.
“Restrictions that had already been imposed on large-scale land clearing – especially in Queensland – allowed Australia to rest assured it had achieved its new target before it even signed up to it.”
In other words, Angus Taylor is on a fool’s errand if he thinks he can sell our Kyoto carryover caper yet again. Yet in our brave new world where Trump’s United States can just pull out of Paris, how much does good faith really matter?
Taylor flies out Friday leaving a skeleton crew of Australian negotiators to put the carry-over case. Observers expect negotiations on carbon trading rules and other issues to last until at least Sunday, Australian time. Only Australia is willing to play that card says John O’Connor CEO of the Carbon Markets Institute and it’s not winning us any friends.
There’s a more than a touch of the quixotic; a lot of Boris in Angus Taylor -beyond each MP’s wealth, their hidebound sense of privilege and entitlement, their membership of elite families, their Oxonian education and their ludicrous buffoonery. In Taylor’s case, unlike Boris, however, the class act is also a family affair. Enter Louise Clegg.
Gussie’s wife, Sydney barrister Louise Clegg, unreliably rumoured on social media to have local government aspirations in Sydney, but who “does not speak to journalists”, is quoted in the Australian Financial Review warning that rolling blackouts might be needed to teach people that “left populism (is) not the answer” to Australia’s policy challenges. Opposed to coal? Let them light candles instead.
Some Liberal malcontents mutter about having a Minister for emissions reductions who doesn’t actually want to reduce emissions but that’s Scott Morrison’s trademark perversity in his captain’s call in allocating ministries to MPs with opposing interests and backgrounds. Keeps everyone on their toes. Fantastic. Great move. Well done, Angus.
“Tickets” Taylor clearly sees himself as “a rising Liberal star” who may be only a Dutton coup away from being Deputy Prime Minister. Or are his sights already on the top job? He’s certainly attracting a lot of attention in track work. Just not the right type of attention.
Gus fully expects to be allowed to play Kyoto-Carryover, a party trick, a rare form of carbon emission-figure-fiddling while Spain burns along with the rest of the world. Editor Maddison Connaughton observes in The Saturday Paper,
“In Madrid, Angus Taylor argues for carryover credits, so that the government might do less. The world is slowly ending and he is doing a card trick. He is not even doing it well, and has to ask the other countries if they will pretend they didn’t see him cheating.”
It helps to have galloping Gus out of the country while NSW police investigate The Mystery of the Doctored Documents, another Canberra soap bubble opera which concerns false claims about Sydney City Council’s exorbitant overseas travel bill his office dropped to the Daily Telegraph 30 September to discredit the green credentials of Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore. Any day or month now, police are bound to solve this baffling case, given how much rides on its speedy resolution. Or not. Imagine how our AFP, with full TV camera crews, would bust Gussies’ office if he were Labor.
But now to BoJo, who modestly claims a “huge great stonking mandate” in the UK general election, over anti-Semitic, socialist, dotard, Jeremy Corbyn – who offends the press by not immediately resigning; outliving his political demise. Bojo’s win heartens our own Coalition government of secrets, lies and rubbery figures and its Tory Story supporters in Murdoch’s The Australian, whose orgy of Corbyn-bashing parallels its relentless character assassination of Shorten in its epic Kill Bill campaign.
Australia’s sons let us rejoice in a victory for vanity and mediocrity. Even The New York Time’s Jenni Russell describes the contest in terms that would delight the late, great, absurdist, dramaturge Samuel Beckett:
“Two vain, incompetent, mediocre charlatans are competing to become prime minister. For the Conservatives, we have the blustering, lying, oafish puffball Boris Johnson. In the Labour corner is the querulous, wooden, sanctimonious Jeremy Corbyn.”
In mirror images of our own oxymoronic Coalition’s MPs, Russell sees each UK pretender as ill- briefed, hazy on the facts and implications of policy proposals, uneasy under scrutiny and belligerent when challenged. Yet, again, as in our local, national soap opera “How good is Australia?” both MPs meet realities of stagnant wage growth, galloping economic inequality and a mounting workers’ sense of helplessness with lies – especially Boris’ Brexit consoling fantasy.
As both ScoMo and Donald Trump know, illusion and deceit can build a type of rusted-on loyalty; feed our emotional need to believe that our leader is on our team. It’s a blind faith; at best indifferent to facts – if not downright hostile.
How Good is Australia has a sequel. How good are Quiet Australians? It’s a narrative about blind obedience; a type of group-think loyalty which scorns key detail and elevates faith above empiricism, especially the science of climate change.
If you are going to tell a lie tell a big one. Angus Taylor knows that. The big lie is back -if it ever went. If your big lie looks absurd, then launch an even more outrageous counterfactual counter-attack. The figures did not come from Clover Moore’s Sydney Council website. Throw a staffer, such as Josh Manuatu, under a bus. Then attack Naomi Wolf for her Christmas Tree War. When that’s exposed as a blatant lie, call the Jewish feminist writer an anti-Semite. Or sexist.
What’s wonderful about Gus’ contribution to our public conversation is its inspired inclusivity. No elitism here. After all, most of us were Rhodes Scholars together at Oxford. We all have a Jewish grandmother somewhere and we’re all on first name terms with Naomi. Probably send her Christmas cards. Talk to her about how good is attending Mass.
Boris’ big lie? A quickie divorce from foreign control, the parasites, bludgers and tinpot dictators of the EU will make Britain great again. Instead, he’s more likely to preside over Scottish independence than anything faintly like the Great Britain of his followers’ magical thinking. Probably about one hundred years too late, Boris.
But, in a post truth age, deceit rules. Victory goes to best clown. In a debased, corruption of the court jester, the most plausible liar, the most brazen dissembling toady to the powerful, wins. Enter the PM as best crowd-pleaser.
As with Trump, local fans bust a gut to cheer on a fellow fraud; rally around his bigotry, ignorance and monumental incompetence. Lionise his repulsiveness. Naturally, Pete Costello’s Nine News’ Sydney Morning Herald throws to our own James McGrath.
“You don’t become mayor of London, you don’t become foreign secretary, you don’t become the elected leader of the Tories, you don’t become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and you don’t secure a new Brexit deal against the odds by being a dunderhead,” slobbers Johnson’s former aide, our senator for Adani, local savant McGrath.
Unlucky Jim McGrath, “Let them go if they don’t like it here” was fired, by Boris, in 2008 for telling older, Afro-Caribbean Britons to return to the Caribbean if they didn’t like the vibe and other vast benefits of Tory rule in London.
You don’t become? – clearly, you do, Jimmy. Above all, your former boss, Boris’ has the gift of the gaffe. BJ’s way with words supercharges his natural tact, his homophobia, xenophobia and misogyny. It’s unifying. Uplifting. Inspiring.
Gay men love it when Boris calls them, “tank-topped bum-boys”. Women in burqas are cheered to hear Boris; ” would go further and say that it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.”
Britons in general -not just racist Brexiteers, are also hugely comforted to know that if “a female student turned up at school or a university lecture looking like a bank robber” Boris would ask her to remove it [the burqa] to speak to her.
Despite being fired for telling lies as a journalist, urbane, cosmopolitan Boris is a peerless wordsmith. Who else could claim, “Voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts and increase your chances of owning a BMW M3.” ?
Boris will Get Brexit Done, Rupert’s local toadies croak. It’s Johnson’s only slogan. Yes. The Oz is a political party in its own right, as Kevin Rudd knows. But hold the front page. Getting Brexit done will create a bonanza Down Under all wrought by the miracle of UK trade deals with Australia which will be signed off within a year. It’s a done deal.
Oddly overlooked by The Oz is that there’s not a skerrick of evidence to suppose that Johnson can get anything done. Au contraire, apart from Boris’ sheer brilliance as professional fabulist, serial womaniser and a policy-free zone on a bicycle – his entire political career is one of unrelieved, bungling ineptitude. And malignant narcissism.
Unless, of course you admire Boris’ cunning stunts and his peerless record for cop-outs and cock-ups. Crass theatrics. Above all, is Johnson’s endearing laziness, his inspiring, Trump-like resolve not to bother with the fine print or even read briefings at all.
Also forgotten by The Oz is heretical research that shows that our own, upright, tax-evading, wage-stealing business class are fully occupied in being the backbone of the nation -having a go and getting a go. They mostly can’t understand free trade deals, don’t use them because they are too complicated – or they’ve lost buckets of money on them in the past.
Yet, in another sign of the times, Johnson’s Tory Party win is a big victory for mendacity. Morrison’s mob will take great comfort that Johnson’s government was helped into being by a farrago of online lies.
First Draft, a disinformation tracking organisation, finds 88 per cent of the most widely circulated online Tory ads during the first four days of December were misleading. That’s nearly all of them. First Draft found no Labor disinformation in the same period.
But it’s another thing to try to lie your way out of a real crisis; one that demands a rational response and real leadership – as Boris and Scott Morrison will discover.
A noxious miasma of acrid smoke smothers the yellow brick roads of The Emerald City poisoning Sydney’s air, over twelve times hazardous levels in Camden and Liverpool, Tuesday, as catastrophic fires continue to ravage the east coast of Australia, consuming over 2.7 million hectares of bush and destroying seven hundred homes in four weeks.
Commuters choke. Hospital emergency admissions soar. Ferry services are cancelled. Yet no smoke is thick enough to cloak the federal government’s wilful blindness; its failure of leadership. Morrison’s government is being tried by fire; bushfires of unprecedented scale and ferocity. And it is found lacking -utterly, comprehensively lacking. Not a clue what to do but to retreat into a type of paralysis.
The smoke is thick enough to trigger alarms at Liberal HQ in Sydney where Australia’s climate science denialist Prime Minister Scott Morrison neatly sidesteps the nation’s catastrophic bushfire crisis by holding a press conference on his post-truth, post-government’s religious discrimination bill, a sop to his right wing, which effectively foments intolerance by extending the definition of religious organisations to include hospitals and Op-shops. Smoke prevents from leaving the building.
“Let’s not beat around the bush … let’s call it for what it is. These bushfires have been caused by extreme weather events, high temperatures, the worst drought in living memory – the exact type of events scientists have been warning us about for decades that would be caused by climate change,” says Matt Kean, who is the leader at state level of the NSW Liberals’ moderate faction.
Kean is quickly clobbered; he cops a hiding for being right in The Australian. He’s accused of using the bogeyman of climate change as an excuse for not introducing any new initiatives – whatever they might be. It’s a straw man argument in which the Australian specialises. He’s also – shock – horror –“politicising the fires”.
“The [no new initiatives] revelation comes after Mr Kean attracted criticism for politicising the devastating fires — which have seen six people killed and more than 720 homes destroyed so far this season — by claiming the nation needed to prioritise the urgent reduction of carbon emissions to prevent catastrophic bushfire seasons becoming the new norm.” Expect a lot more of this type of smear before the season of peace on earth and goodwill to all men and women is over.
But a few festive season shout outs are in order. Merry Christmas aged care executives – enjoy your $12 billion dollar a year subsidy and congratulations in lobbying govt to vote down Aged Care 2019 amendments to make aged care accountable – as recommended by the current Royal Commission.
Public health researcher, Dr Sarah Russell, reports for veteran Walkley Award winning investigative reporter Michael West how a “few big interests” run our coalition government was on full show last week, when three critical amendments to the Aged Care Legislation Amendment (New Commissioner Functions) Bill 2019 were tabled. The Liberal-Nationals voted against all amendments.”
The amendments would have been a watershed in aged care – holding private firms accountable for their duty of care rather than maximising their profits. To vote down the reforms makes a mockery of the Commission’s findings and stalls vital transparency and accountability around finances, staffing ratios and complaints in aged care homes.
Yet you’ll hear a lot of boasts about the number of new home care packages available. Few of us are ever frail enough to warrant any kind of care package at all. Most packages available to average candidates offer very limited practical help.
The elderly do not need neoliberal packaging, any more outsourcing, service-delivering or commodifying. They need a government prepared to exercise humanity and to reform a system which horrifies Royal Commissioners by its cruelty, its abuse and its neglect of our senior citizens – all in the interests of a privatised age care system which works mainly for the financial benefit of owners and investors..
Season’s greetings also to all pensioners who may still be able to fend for themselves.
Waiting until the last sitting day, the Coalition uses its numbers to quietly push through its Social Security Integrity Bill which will make life harder for 400,000 Australians. Newstart recipients are mostly over 45. A quarter are over 55 years old.
” … the two onerous or odious bits of this bill is what’s called the Liquid Assets Waiting Time. If you are a middle aged man, who’s lost their job; been made redundant; and you have more than $36,000 in the bank – or if you’re single and have $18,000 in the bank – the government wants to double the wait time before you can access social security.
So it’ll go from 13 weeks to 36 weeks, which is half a year. And it means that the government expects people to run down all their savings – any buffer they’ve got for a disaster in their life, like sickness – before they can access social security.
The second aspect of this bill which is odious as well is what’s called the migrant wait time. That means if you’re someone that’s migrating here from overseas, and you go back to your home country for more than six weeks the government wants to take the age pension supplement off you.
One final image of a government out of touch with those in its duty of care; a government crippled by internal division and its servitude to climate change deniers in its ranks and its donors; our coal barons and fossil fuel magnates, occurs Tuesday.
The bushfire smog is so thick that it triggers fire alarms trapping occupants of Liberal HQ in Sydney. Prevented from leaving also, is a climate science denialist PM who is trapped in a building by smoke from fires fuelled by man-made global warming, a term which the press has largely dropped in favour of the neutral “climate change”.
Time to drop the ideology, Mr Morrison. If you can’t join the dots connecting climate change and catastrophic bushfires, it’s high time you stepped aside in favour of someone who can. Or sought advice from experts. Not turn away when former fire chiefs try to help you with their advice and expertise.
Given your government’s track record, so far, however, it’s clear that you are a dangerous liability in the current crisis. You are not just fiddling while a nation burns, you are feeding the flames with your inertia, your policy paralysis, your wretched climate science denial. Time to declare a state of national climate emergency as a first step to taking the type of emergency action that experts are urging you to adopt.
Twenty-three former fire and emergency leaders say they tried for months to warn you that Australia needed more water-bombers to tackle bigger, faster and hotter bushfires. Former NSW Fire and Rescue chief Greg Mullins — one of the founders of the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action Group — says his group’s been seeking a meeting with Federal Government to discuss the crisis since April.
Subsequent pleas fall on deaf ears. Time to act step aside in favour of someone who can. Australia’s current crop of catastrophic fires are not about petty party politics and climate science denial. They are a real and pressing danger you need to address now.
Call the National Summit which Greg Mullins and Lee Johnson, two former fire chiefs from NSW and Queensland, say we need immediately to work out “how to deal with the increasing strain on volunteers battling more extreme and frequent bushfires, but also how Australia deals with fire in a changed climate.” Listen to them.
“A big national conversation needs to be had. We need farmers, councils, the military, politics.” Of course, it won’t solve the crisis but it’s a very good start.
Instead we have a federal government and a headstrong, obdurately stubborn PM unwilling and incapable of taking any advice that is not his own or from powerful cronies whose views he already shares. It’s a lethal combination. A deadly Canberra bubble all of Scott Morrison and his ministers’ own making.
Don’t look to Boris Johnson’s win as some kind of vindication; far better that you treat it as a warning that even a lunatic, incompetent, clown born with a silver spoon in his mouth can get elected PM but there’s no reason to believe he knows remotely where to begin when it comes to governing. Nor does he have the personality or the nous to ever learn. If that sounds familiar, it’s time you, yourself, stood aside or at least owned your own cluelessness. The bluffing just adds another potentially lethal layer of disaster.
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Jeremy Corbyn is a name that may not be familiar to most Australians. He is the leading candidate for the leadership of the British Labour Party following the resignation of Ed Milliband after the disastrous results of the national elections earlier this year.
In the finest traditions of old Labour, Jeremy Corbyn is creating a significant stir among party heavyweights. He has signalled nationalising the railways, retaining public ownership of the National Health Service, introducing rental controls and even the abolition of Britain’s Trident Nuclear weapons.
The reason that the Labour Party heavyweights both in and out of parliament are so concerned about Corbyn is that his policies are resonating very favourably with the Labour Party rank and file and the broader population generally.
Notwithstanding the results of the recent national election, the British people are clearly looking for something better than either major party has thus far offered. Corbyn’s manifesto offers just that.
But the main reason those Labour heavyweights aligned with the Tony Blair free-market Labour model are fearful of Corbyn, is his proposed PQE (Peoples Quantitative Easing) economic policy.
His plan is for England’s central bank (the Bank of England), to set up a National Investment Bank to invest in new infrastructure needed to support the hi-tech and innovative industries of the future, including a new mandate to upgrade the economy by investing in new large scale housing, energy, transport and digital projects.
What is contentious about this plan is that it would be financed without incurring debt. The spending would be new money that would generate employment by directly financing infrastructure projects that create jobs and add value to the national wealth.
The difference between this approach and the QE program the Cameron government undertook with limited success was that Corbyn’s money would go directly to the market rather than to commercial banks.
In other words, Quantitative Easing (money creation) for the people instead of banks.
You may recall part of Kevin Rudd’s stimulus program in 2008 was to credit the bank accounts of taxpayers with two rounds of $900. He did this because he knew the people would spend it, thus providing a temporary boost to the economy to offset a potentially disastrous downturn.
While he did that, the U.S. Eurozone and the UK governments chose to put QE money (created money) into the banks thinking that they would lend that money to investors and developers of hard core projects that would generate employment and restore western economies.
Unfortunately, the banks viewed their windfall differently and much of that money went into non-productive enterprises such as asset appreciation, investing in the stock market, bonuses for financial services and a host of other wealth creating opportunities for the super-rich.
As a consequence, the stock market surged, the wealthy got wealthier but little was achieved in restoring employment levels back to pre GFC days. There were some positive signs in those three economic powerhouses with QE, but they were nothing compared with what could have been achieved had the Rudd styled stimulus been played out instead.
Corbyn’s detractors have spoken out with the usual retorts about inflation, hyperinflation, blah, blah, blah, not the least of whom is our own Greg Sheridan from Newscorp’s The Australian.
He writes, “Corbyn’s positions are at once antique, bizarre, ideological, extreme left-wing and absurd.” One wonders why Sheridan is so critical of Corbyn when by his own words he sees Cameron as the principal beneficiary.
The biggest fear that has generated so much right wing criticism seems to be the realisation that if Corbyn were to become Labour leader and win the next election, the soft, comfortable world of corporate chiefs, and the fortunes of the rich and powerful would be threatened.
So too, the dominance of those groups over the common man and woman in the street, who have worked so tirelessly to keep the wealthy in control for the past three decades.
Prue Plumridge from the UK’s ‘Think Left’ writes, “We have reached such a time in history now. The destructive neoliberal status quo of the last few decades is being shaken to its core and there is an opportunity at last for a conversation about where we go from here and how we can bring about change. It won’t be easy but Jeremy Corbyn has started the ball rolling by offering a radical vision which not only restores the core values of the Labour party and responds to a changing world but also opens up an opportunity for dialogue on such issues as climate change, finite resources and sustainable living. It is a positive start.”
One can only imagine the media reception Bill Shorten and the Australian Labor Party would receive were they to bite the bullet and present a similar anti-austerity policy framework to the Australian people.
But they won’t of course. Today’s Labor party has, ever since the Hawke-Keating years, become no more than a mirror image of the neo-liberal Coalition with a slight bias toward the average worker and no stomach for real economic reform.
But if presented in the right way, in language that nullifies the frantic, desperate cries of the neo-liberal elite, Shorten and Labor could well present a Corbyn styled manifesto that would both resonate with an electorate that is clearly fed up with the status quo and at the same time, reset the economic argument.