Sunday, 14 December 2014

Footnote 32, by Loz Kaye

If the history of this century has been about anything so far, then it is the bargain of national security. A constant state of war carried out on a need-to-know basis.

Our governments of various political hues, the NSA, CIA, GCHQ, have constantly asked for, even demanded, our trust. We're keeping you safer, trust us. We're acting within the law, trust us. We need the powers we ask for (and many more you don't know about), trust us.

The shocking report to the Senate Intelligence Committee on CIA torture activities has revealed one tiny corner of the truth, one tiny corner of the misery the US - and by collusion its allies - has unleashed on the world.

News outlets have shied away from describing the atrocities contained in it for what they actually are. I can't. It's rape, kidnap, mental cruelty, thuggery, torture and murder.

Once and for all, this report shows how flawed that bargain of national security has become. The trust we have been asked to have in the war on terror and the rush to mass surveillance has been dangerously misplaced.

The report is full of instances where the public and their elected representatives have been lied to.

The CIA claimed that these “enhanced techniques” led to useful information, preventing terrorist attacks. The committee found that in no case examined was this true. Not one.

CIA Deputy Director of Operations James Pavitt told the Senate Intelligence committee in 2001 they would be informed of each individual who entered CIA custody. Didn't happen.

Pavitt denied torture, and in 2002 denied existence of a detention facility. Lies.

The CIA lied about the number of people detained. They lied about videotaping of interrogations. They lied about using starvation. They lied about using sleep deprivation to medically damaging extent.

The idea that we should take the security services' word at face value after this is not just laughable, it's obscene.

In lots of places, coverage of the report has been rather warped by the CIA's point of view.

It was presented that the failure had mainly been that the torture was ineffective. In other words, that if it had been effective, then it might have been worth persevering with the anal rehydration and simulated drownings. 

To my mind that is obviously monstrous.

What this has done, though, has been to dispel the Jack Bauer, 24 fantasy that for our spooks the ends justify the means and can be made to do so within a very strict timeframe with space for adverts.

The constant claim has been that lives have been saved, and therefore complaining about collateral damage was naive or dangerous.

We now know that those claims have been made falsely in the past and there is no need to take them as true without question in the future.

Equally, the notion that this was done by a few “bad apples” has also been stripped away.

Far from being a few rogue agents, this torture programme was devised by contractor psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen.

They formed a company worth $180m, and received $81m in payouts over seven years. This shows that abuse was planned, systemic and well-funded.

In all the detail of the report, as journalist Trevor Timm pointed out, there is one case that seems to sum up that whole miserable saga.

Gul Rahman was tortured at the CIA black site known as the Salt Pit, he was chained to the floor and froze to death.

Footnote 32 explains curtly, “Gul Rahman, another case of mistaken identity.” A human life, someone who lived, loved and was loved, ended up as a footnote by mistake.

The favourite go to phrase for the mass surveillance lobby is that if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear.

Clearly, Gul Ruhman had everything to fear, freezing to death as a footnote in history. In the globalised war on terror, we can all fear becoming another fatal footnote.

Of course, some of us more than others. Currently, Muslims and people of Middle Eastern origin.

But until the government and mainstream parties truly face up to what they have done, until we have a proper inquiry in the UK, and until the release of the Chilcot Report, then the powers that be deserve our fear, not our trust.

Loz Kaye is the Leader of the Pirate Party UK.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

America's Real Rape Culture, by David Lindsay

Fair Warning.

This article is not about Rolling Stone or the University of Virginia. Nor is this an anti-American piece; one could say plenty about the United Kingdom.

The rape culture in the United States consists in the staggering prevalence of even quite casual references to heterosexual and homosexual rape as a way of referring to domination and humiliation.

And, for that matter, in the staggering prevalence of even quite casual references to domination and humiliation themselves. Why do so many things have to be framed in those terms?

A sports team, even a school one, only has to beat its rival for it to be said to have "raped" the other side. 

Whether playfully or menacingly, a heterosexual man will state his intention to make another heterosexual man his "bitch", which sounds hilariously gay to British ears.

Over here, calling a man a "bitch" is done only by the kind of men who refer to each other as "she", a small minority even of gay men, high camp to the point of social and cultural separatism.

"Faggot" means something quite different, and now rather obscure, in Britain, where it otherwise still sounds American on the rare occasions that it is heard. But it is an insult of first resort in America.

It is true that "bugger" and "sod" are treated as mild, and even quaintly old-fashioned, profanities on these shores, scarcely more serious than "bloody". But that is because their use is entirely divorced from their original meaning, of which, in the case of "sod", most people are probably unaware.

Americans even say "f**k you" instead of "f**k off". They manage to shock even those of us who are quite hardened to these things, by addressing the c-word to women, something that almost never happens in Britain.

Indeed, that word seems to be addressed mostly to women, such that its use against men, which is nearly its only use among Britons, would presumably sound odd to Americans.

Most bizarre of all to the rest of us are those invitations to suck the genitals of men or boys who, like those to whom they issue those invitations, are assumed to be of the most unimpeachable heterosexuality.

Lurking behind all of this, and not very far in its background, is the horrific level of prison rape in the United States.

That is part of the general harshness of the American penal system, and it is connected to the very lengthy sentences that are handed down there as a matter of routine.

Prison rape happens in Britain, but it is far less common, and it is certainly not something that mainstream entertainment regularly uses for comedic purposes.

Fear of being raped seems to be seen as part of the deterrent value of the American system of mass incarceration, itself so integral to American economic and political activity that its subcultural features are prominent as points of normal cultural reference.

And there would be no fear of being raped in prison unless it were known as a day-to-day fact of life that men truly were being raped in prison.

Meanwhile, other, although not unrelated, forces compel that huge numbers of people, especially men, and most especially young and non-white men (categories that are in any case depicted in hypersexualised ways), have to spend often prolonged periods inside that system.

As we saw first at Abu Ghraib and now also in the Senate report on torture, the American Republic has taken to using sexual violence as an official weapon of war, in at least the latter case with full approval all the way up to the very top of the Bush Administration.

That Administration was not the first, of either party, to have been steeped in fraternities and related organisations, the likes of Skull and Bones, that are as baffling when seen from this side of the Atlantic as is the not unconnected system of legacy admissions.

The strongly sexual aspect of that kind of thing, even if not actually violent or non-consensual, is nevertheless as coercive and exploitative of the men involved as it is of the women.

Being rich and, although Americans would delude themselves and dispute the term, being posh do not make one any older than one is in actual fact.

Still only in their late teens and desperate to fit in, as well as often having a family tradition to keep up, these men are told that this is how to do so.

Products of what in itself is this wildly atypical milieu wield vastly disproportionate economic, social, cultural and political influence.

Thus is rape really quite central to even humdrum American cultural expression.

If there is in fact a huge incidence of sexual violence in general in the United States, then that is hardly surprising.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Why The Euro Cannot Work: Flow of Wealth to the Core, by Martin Prior

When I look at the prevailing threats to democracy, not least from the EU, the IMF and ever since 1951 in Iran, the United States, I wonder if we are approaching a turning point, just as the Roman Republic did when it became too unwieldy to match vested interests, and became an Empire.

When I recently stood for the Compass Management Committee I issued the following supporting statement:

As a democrat,

(1)            I am a member of the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform, with a preference for STV,
(2)        I believe, along with Unite, my union, that the TTIP should be torn up.  There are in fact likely to be disadvantages for lower-than-median incomes: this is a multinational stitch-up, which will also represent a neo-colonial blueprint for future deals with the Third World.

As an erstwhile econometrician,

(1)        I argue that austerity is counter-productive, note Greece in particular and of course here, see my blog at .
(2)        To my mind the Euro cannot work.  It attracts wealth to the centre, i.e. Germany, and those on the periphery inevitably lose out.  Certainly their problems cannot be overcome with fantasy and neo-liberal panaceas.

In fact, CAPITALISM IS A CANCER and in particular we must dismantle the neo-liberalism of the EU.

As regards democracy, I could say a lot about STV as an effective mechanism for choosing the choices, including preferred candidates within a party, and I feel the key thing wrong with the TTIP and its like is that in a world where there are so many dangers to the environment, standardising regulations with somebody who is climate-change denier half the time – i.e. the US - is something we need like a hole in the head, let alone the ozone-layer. 

I would like to turn to my statement that the Euro “attracts wealth to the centre, i.e. Germany, and those on the periphery inevitably lose out.”  In a blog three years ago, in 2011, I argued that the Euro was inherently unsound.  I stated:

However I have a further objection [to the question of economic heterogeneity], which to my mind is extremely serious: I feel that when you have an economic area operating under a market economy, wealth will always flow from the periphery to an economic centre of gravity. This leads to lower inflation at the centre and a depreciation of currencies at the periphery. This is apparent in Europe, and we also see for example in the Antipodes that the New Zealand Dollar slowly but inexorably depreciates against the Australian Dollar...

As I felt at the time, the deficit in Greece, among other countries, has not gone away, and indeed there is concern about economic heterogeneity that spans the political spectrum from left to right in this and many countries.  But now I feel it time to look at the statistical evidence.  The following graph relates the depreciation of various mainly Western countries’ currencies against the Deutsche Mark, versus the distance of the capitals from Frankfurt.  This is the 16-year period 1963-1999, the eve of the Euro:

Two curves are shown, the green fitted to all countries in the EU in 1999, on the eve of the Euro, and the white one fitted to the original signatories to the Treaty of Rome in 1958.  (SF is Finland.)  Germany is not part of the fit, since the rise against itself would have to be +0% and the distance perhaps zero.   Where the curve goes through +0% could be an average distance within Germany from Frankfurt, either in geographic, population or economic terms.  Here it is around 250-265m, reasonably consistent with my own calculation of 215km for the mean, which would go up to 260km with re-unification, though this latter covers only the last nine years of this period.

Now these curves are perhaps the simplest curve fit, which is known as a log-linear fit.  Let us look at the example of two countries, one which is twice the distance of the other from Frankfurt, at least at the capitals.  We have Italy, where Rome is 959km from Frankfurt, whereas Paris is 471km.  And Athens is 1804km from Frankfurt, almost twice that of Rome.  Let us look at the change in currency values for Greece and Italy: in 1962, the Drachma was worth 20.83 Lire, but in 1999 it was worth only 6.42 Lire, well below half its previous value.  The white curve, extended as yellow beyond the original six signatories, gives a halving time of 25 years for countries where one country is half the distance of the other from Frankfurt.  In 1987, the Drachma was worth 9.80 Lire, just under half its 1962 value.  Both currencies lie close to this curve.

In fact we have a very straightforward idea: double the distance, halve the strength.  For the green curve the halving rate is roughly 33 years.

Now clearly there is not enough data to refute the hypothesis of halving times related to distances from a centre of gravity.  There are indeed irregularities.  But we may also note that the graph suggests that the Netherlands exerts a pull on Belgium, and also Spain on Portugal, since in each case one is above the curve line and the other below, or much closer to the curve line.

The graph also shows that the more recent a country’s accession to the EU, the less their currencies have fallen.  All countries acceding after the first six in 1958 – with the exception of the UK - have depreciations above the white line, and countries that acceded 1994 onwards are well above both lines.  This suggests that the greater the economic integration, the greater the gravitational pull.  Nevertheless one has to be careful with this figure, since before accession, their circumstances will be varied.

Now what we can see here is that all the countries that have had deficit difficulties, i.e. the ‘pigs’ - Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain – are those at the bottom of the chart.  It doesn’t matter that they are on or above one of the curves, and Spain and Ireland are above both curves: a deficit is a deficit.  It is clear that the pressures to devalue in the latter half of last century are still there, and that all the things that devaluation is meant to avoid will still happen in the new Euro environment.

As I said in my blog:

Now if what I say is correct, then we cannot put Greece and other southern countries on a firm footing once and for all, but rather the slippage will occur indefinitely.

It is clear that economic union cannot really happen effectively until the wealth of the EU starts to converge, but within the present scenario, the inequalities will in fact worsen, and it has to be the case that if an economic union needs intermittently to mercilessly punish its weakest members, there has to be something wrong with the underlying philosophy of that economic union.

I have in this short paper tried to look at currency movements, since the problems of the Eurozone directly relate to currencies.  Clearly more detailed analyses are required.  For example the volatile movements between 1973-83 led to halving rates of around 12-14 years – probably due to exceptional transport costs – but returned to more like 40-50 years in the remainder of the century.  But this suggests that the following depreciations against the Deutsche Mark might have occurred from 1999-2013, had there been no Euro:

from Frankfurt(km)
[German av’ge 260km]
predicted change
(50-year halving rate)
predicted change
(75-year halving rate)

This table clearly shows the slippage within a free-trade zone over a 15-year period.  Italy was showing signs of sluggishness around 2007, eight years after the start of the Eurozone.  And now, 15 years after the start, France is having difficulty recovering from the recent slump.  Austerity measures are likely to aggravate France’s problems, both in terms of trade and the deficit.  Italy too.

And according to the model, London’s distance from Frankfurt lies in between that of Paris and Rome, so we would have started having trouble over the Euro around 2010, had we been in.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

In Response to the Recent Vote of the British Parliament to Recognise Palestine, by Vera Baboun

State of Palestine
Bethlehem Municipality

Dear British Parliament members,

This is a very crucial time, as all times are, for Palestine. Its people suffer from the unimaginable and insupportable visions of injustice, and the utmost racist injustice that is the attacking of our very heart, our occupied capital, East Jerusalem. This is a land where peace is martyred in the land of peace.

Here you come, and for the first time listen to our everlasting calls. You stand for the first time as Europeans stand before the oppressor and say, "We are here!" You have taken this step towards realising our perpetually yearned hope to be recognised as a dignified nation.

That is intrinsic to our existence as a human beings. It has no prerequisite to have suffered for it: it is not logically necessary to have to fight for that which is ours by the Law of Creation and by our very presence, our presence as Palestine, the Holy Land.

From here, even if meagrely, we have glimpsed the hope of all generations. It is here that that hope was born. It is here that the history of heroes was first inscribed. Remember with us that which on this earth makes life worth living.

I call upon you, the decision-makers, to impose your authority upon the great powers of the world to make the change. We have heard a lot. Now, it is time to act.

Since it embraces all three religions, Palestine in the hometown of all nations. From here, the message of peace is born. Through the shepherds, that message spreads throughout the universe.

This is the place where God sent his prophets to make disciples of humanity. From here, the word of justice is created. Yet we lack justice.

Our mother, Palestine, smells each night the pillow of her exiled or emigrated kinsman, praying for them to come back and re-join their ancestors. 

Your attempt as the British Parliament, in your recent vote to recognise Palestine, is like initiating the spark for the peace operation to proceed.

To the British Government, we say: "Listen to our cry for justice and peace, listen to your people who overwhelmingly call upon you to recognise Palestine as a first step towards ending impunity and giving peace a chance.

The courageous Swedish decision to recognise Palestine shows what it takes to give hope: to take a sovereign decision in order to support the implementation of international law and the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people 66 years after our catastrophe began. It is not early to recognise Palestine. Rather, it is late.

It is an historic responsibility, and a long-term duty pinned upon the international community, especially Europe, to guarantee the implementation of the peace process in Palestine, the Holy Land.

Decades have passed, and we still wait for the declaration of our being, of our existence, and of our justified national and human rights.

Ms Vera Baboun, Mayor of Bethlehem.

The original PDF, bearing the municipal seal and so forth, is available from

The Cuckoo Is Farage, by Mike Nattrass

Clearly the attack upon me shows that Farage does not like competition from any other political party, nor does he accept noises of democracy from within UKIP.

At the European elections, "An Independence from Europe" stood on a platform to the left of UKIP, who were advocating the privatisation of parts of the NHS and moving towards recruiting even more right-wing bedfellows in their European Grouping.

The name "An Independence from Europe" could only be confused with "UKIP" by a warped egocentric mind concerned at the loss of worshippers.

The broadcast of which he complains still exists on the web site and please look at it, as it can be clearly seen that the Farage comments made about it are simply untrue.

An Independence from Europe or AIP gained almost a quarter of a million votes at the European election, based on a very clear Party Broadcast and leaflet. This exceeded the vote of The English Democrats and BNP.

We also had a mailbag of letters from those supporting AIP because of the unacceptable antics of Mr Farage of UKIP. Voters were not confused by our message.

As one of the Architects of UKIP  (former Party Chairman and former Deputy Leader), I influenced many of the anti-EU policies and wrote the opposition to HS2.

It became obvious that there was a cuckoo in the nest wanting to push out all UKIP officials with a brain or a view. The cuckoo is Farage.

Any opinion conflicting with his own right-wing views, or anyone giving a warning about him embracing unacceptable EU MEPs or his women, was shown the way out.

It was his personal money-grubbing antics, and his "embracing" to feather his own nest, that I found most unacceptable.

The term "Spiv Boy" and "Snake Oil Salesman" have been applied to him by two of his once long term friends, but Farage does not keep friends for long. 

I am astonished by his attack upon me for fielding candidates at the EU elections, and can only reply that the man holding the pint and having a quick fag looks like a naughty boy, an image attractive to the public, but this masks the true, complex Farage.

With time, the nature of this beast will be exposed.

I can promise that "An Independence from Europe" will field candidates in 2015 and the ravings of Nigel Farage will be ignored.

Mike Nattrass is the Leader of An Independence Party.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

For Stability and Pluralism in Parliament, by David Lindsay

Two political parties exist specifically in order to provide the Government of the United Kingdom. They are organised to that end.

Other parties, and we Independents, have a different role.

The failure of the present electoral arrangements to take account of this distinction looks likely to be thrown into sharp relief next May. A Bill needs to be introduced in the first Queen’s Speech of the next Parliament.

It would need to be made clear from the very start that the Parliament Act would be invoked if necessary, and that there would be absolutely no question of a referendum.

The United Kingdom would be divided 300 constituencies, each containing as near as possible to one third of one per cent of the electorate, with the requirement that constituency boundaries straddle the United Kingdom’s internal borders wherever possible.

Each constituency would return three Constituency MPs.

On the first Thursday of a month-long process, it being quite a recent phenomenon that a General Election was held on one day everywhere, each constituency would elect two MPs.

The Labour Party and the Conservative Party would submit their respective internal shortlists of two to run-off ballots of the entire constituency electorate.

On the second Thursday, there would be a contest between the previous week’s Labour loser and the previous week’s Conservative loser.

One may, and people do, join both of those parties in Northern Ireland. They probably ought not to contest Assembly elections there, but that is something else.

On the third Thursday, each of the 99 lieutenancy areas would elect two County MPs, one from between two candidates submitted jointly by the Co-operative and Labour Parties, and one from between two candidates submitted by the Conservative Party.

And on the fourth Thursday, each of the 12 European Parliamentary regions would elect 12 Area MPs, six from lists submitted by other parties and six Independents, with each elector voting for one party list and for one Independent candidate, and with the highest scoring six in each category being elected.

Parties that chose to contest these seats would not be eligible to contest any other election.

This would give a total of 642 MPs.

This system would give a voice to smaller parties and to Independent candidates from all parts of the country.

It would give everyone direct representation within both the governing party and the Official Opposition. It would give the two main parties direct representative responsibility for every community.

Simultaneously, it would guarantee that there would always be either a Labour or a Conservative majority government. Only the extreme unlikelihood of a dead heat would ever deliver a hung Parliament.

The lowering of the voting age to 16 might also be included in this, although with the strict conditions that under-18s (indeed, under-21s, and perhaps even slightly older people) would be ineligible to serve on juries.

Far more urgently, there is the need to reduce the parliamentary term to four years, or, as would be even better, to abolish the fixed term altogether.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Simon Stevens: Unrealistic, And Will Fall On Deaf Ears, by Clive Peedell

Simons Stevens's projected £22bn savings are unrealistic, and his call on political parties to fill an £8bn funding gap will fall on deaf ears.

Despite the swift declarations of political support for the principles of his plan for the next five years of the NHS, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens is a long way from securing the £8 billion extra by 2020 that he admits is needed to make ends meet even after extraordinarily ambitious efficiency savings of £22 billion.

None of the three main political parties is committed to raise NHS spending by anything like as much as £8 billion: the Tories are sticking rigidly to their planned further five-year freeze to 2021, the Lib Dems have offered two related injections of £1 billion from 2017, and Labour has promised £2.5 billion also in 2017 – by which point the financial crisis already brewing in the NHS will be boiling over into cuts and closures.

The Tories keep banging on about needing a strong economy for a strong NHS.

But only this week George Osborne was shown to have missed his deficit target and their real terms cuts to NHS funding have led to rising waiting times, an A&E crisis and GP surgeries in meltdown.

Meanwhile Labour's plans for a Mansion Tax are already falling apart and won't raise sufficient funds.

The National Health Action Party is putting forward a genuine alternative plan that would break now from the spending freeze and start with an immediate injection of extra funding, if necessary raised through taxation, to be followed by efficiency savings based on stripping away the wasteful bureaucracy of the market​,​ coupled with measures to force the rich and big business to stop dodging £120 billion a year in taxes and pay their fair share towards the public services and health care we all need.

Simon Stevens has totally ignored the grotesque financial waste that is draining billions of pounds from frontline care in our NHS - wasteful internal markets, commissioning support units, management consultancy fees, the cost of procurement of clinical services, profit-taking by private providers, the cost of fragmenting pathways due to outsourcing components to private contractors, and PFI deals bankrupting our hospitals.

We also need to consider the damaging physical and mental health impacts of austerity economics. Poverty and inequalities are the big issues that the government must tackle if good health is to be preserved.

Another striking thing about Stevens's plan, which many reports see as radical, is that few of the ideas are new: most have been at the centre of various attempts at reorganising the NHS over the last 20 years, during which time few of the promised new services outside hospital have taken shape, and far from reducing dependence on hospital services, attendances at A&E and GP referrals for hospital treatment of continued to rise stubbornly each year.

Many of Stevens's proposals to seek ways of reducing demand for hospital treatment by improving public health are quite sensible – even if they cannot be guaranteed to deliver any significant change in hospital caseload in the five-year period.

But it's less clear that some of the proposals for reorganising the delivery of services could generate anything like the scale of savings that are required, especially when some of the proposals in the Stevens plan involve substantial additional new investment:
  • He proposes an end to the continued freeze on NHS pay, which has so far delivered at least a third of the "cost savings" since 2010.
  • He proposes to "radically upgrade" prevention and public health.
  • He proposes to give "resources and support" to the introduction of what he calls radical new care delivery options including establishing "multispecialty community providers" bringing together GPs, nurses, community health services, mental health and social workers, employing hospital consultants and running community hospitals.
  • He promises more NHS support for frail older people living in nursing homes.
  • He also promises to "invest in new options for our workforce, and raise our game on health technology".
None of the costs of these suggestions is discussed.

But the plan for example for "multispecialty community providers" appears to revive Lord Darzi’s controversial "polyclinics", and would inevitably mean capital investment in new, larger buildings, new equipment, possibly including MRI scanners, and the recruitment of professional support staff, some of whom are already in short supply.

It's not clear how scattering the services which are currently provided in specialist hospital centres across a wider network of smaller centres could possibly be more efficient in terms of the time of consultants and professional staff or save money.

Dr Clive Peedell is Co-Leader of the National Health Action Party.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

To Speak The Truth To Those In Power, by Clive Peedell

This is a big opportunity for Simon Stevens to wake up the government to the realities of the crisis and meltdown that the NHS is facing.

He must make the point that flat funding of the NHS is a policy mistake in the context of health inflation running at 4% and an increasing population.

Hence per capita spend on the NHS has fallen under the coalition. Efficiency savings are effectively cuts, and they have gone too far. Patient care and patient safety are at risk.

The NHS clearly needs more investment, and that needs to be at least a 4% increase year on year. This could be funded by addressing the NHS elephant in the room. That is the internal market, which is estimated to cost the NHS at least £5bn per year.

Thus, instead of employing accountants and lawyers to deal with the market bureaucracy, the money could be spent on frontline care where it is needed.

We also need to hear about the wasteful PFI, and a call for it to be abolished, with existing schemes bought out or refinanced at better value for the taxpayer.

If Simon Stevens wants to save the NHS then he needs to engage with NHS staff to get them onside with his vision and plans.

This can only happen if he is open and honest with them. He therefore needs to follow the lead of the cabinet minister who admitted the NHS reforms were a mistake.

The enormous financial cost and associated upheaval of this undemocratic top-down reorganisation has been hugely damaging and must be acknowledged.

In order to address demand on the NHS, we must also see a focus on the social determinants of health such as poverty and deprivation.

Austerity policies are unsustainable and incompatible with a healthy welfare system and the NHS won't survive as as free at the point of service system much longer.

Public health must also be top of the agenda with a call to back plain cigarette packing and a minimum price on alcohol.

We must also hear the arguments that healthcare spending actually helps to stimulate economic growth and investment in the NHS will help fuel the economy and address wealth and health inequality.

I hope Simon Stevens takes this opportunity to speak the truth to those in power.

The solutions are actually there, but he should listen to NHS staff and the public, not to overhyped management consultants and to politicians with vested interests.

What the NHA Party is calling for:

  • Guarantee a minimum 4% annual rise in NHS spending to keep pace with healthcare inflation. This should be funded from​ general​ taxation including a 1​ ​​penny temporary rise to address the NHS spending gap until ​NHA ​policy ​initiatives ​(remove the market, halt privatisation, end PFI) ​bring ​billions of pounds of ​savings.
  • Aim to increase NHS funding to at least 10% of GDP to bring us closer to the levels of healthcare spending in other G7 countries.
  • End the costly Private Finance Initiative.
  • Use the purchasing power of the NHS to get the best value in procurement.
  • Repeal the Health and Social Care Act in the least disruptive way possible.
  • Remove the competitive market by abolishing the purchaser provider split.
  • Halt and reverse NHS privatisation Integrate health and social care.
  • Bring back national and regional planning structures into ​the ​NHS.
  • Involve public health and representative clinical leaders in the policy-making process.
  • Keep public health improvement teams in Local Authorities and re-establish public health teams in the NHS.
Patient care:
  • Abolish prescription charges and resist imposition of charges for NHS services currently free at the point of use.
  • Improve the patients' complaints process and protect whistle-blowers within the NHS Prioritise prevention of illness and the social determinants of health in all policy-making​, including minimum alcohol pricing, plain cigarette packaging and a sugar tax.
  • Ensure safe staffing levels throughout the NHS with an increased number of GPs, nurses and midwives. 
  • Create a sustainable workforce by improving training places, recruitment and retention​, fair pay, reducing burn-out and losing staff outside the NHS.
  • Establish parity of esteem between mental and physical healthcare​ and invest in crisis care teams for mental health patients.
  • Ensure women are able to give birth locally and safely whether at home or in hospital, and improve continuity of care by midwives.
Dr Clive Peedell is Co-Leader of the National Health Action Party.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Secret Justice Is No Justice At All, by Loz Kaye

The trial of Erol Incedal, accused of plotting a terrorist attack in Britain, is now underway at the Old Bailey.

Just months ago, I would not even have been able to write that sentence. The fact that we know it is happening at all is thanks to pressure from British journalists and the Court of Appeal.

The trial is still going ahead with significant parts of the evidence being heard in secret. Once more, our shared British freedoms and principles of law that go back centuries are being chipped away.

Initially, senior Old Bailey judge Mr Justice Nicol had ruled that the trial of two men was to be held  wholly in secret and the accused be kept anonymous.

This was challenged by media organisations ,and in June the existence of the trial of “AB” and “CD” was acknowledged.

Anthony Hudson for the media groups told the appeal judges, “As far as we are aware no order has ever been made that the entire criminal trial to be held in private, with the media excluded...”

The appeal judges agreed, allowing “AB” to be identified as Erol Incedal. Lord Justice Gross was unequivocal.

He said, “We express grave concern as to the cumulative effects of holding a criminal trial in camera and anonymising the defendants. We find it difficult to conceive of a situation where both departures from open justice will be justified.”

As ever the justification for a secret trial has been that familiar catch all “national security”.

In particular senior prosecutors claimed that the trial was in danger of not getting underway if details were revealed.

That has clearly not been the case. Such headlines as “Blairs may have been terror target” have not stopped the prosecution.

In the run-up to this trial, it has been described as unprecedented and unique. Well, it is only unique until the next time.

In fact, a parallel secret legal system has been growing up in this country over the last few years.

So-called super injunctions have been a cause of much controversy, and they are not just about the doings of celebrities, but also firms like Trafigura.

Liberty has warned about the use of secret evidence in the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, leaving people unable to defend themselves properly.

Above all, the passing of the Justice and Security Act showed that the intention was not for this case to be unique.

The coalition government actively intend secret courts and the suppression of evidence through closed material procedures.

For all that the Liberal Democrats have claimed to be a break on the Conservatives' worst instincts, this is the reality that they have created, neither liberal nor very democratic.

We are now left with the bizarre situation in the Erol Incedal trial that the secret part of proceedings can be attended by 10 journalists who will not be permitted at this stage to report on the evidence that they hear.

This makes us look ridiculous in the eyes of the world, and hands a get-out to dictators wanting to muzzle the free press.

Surely, we need to be able to hear the evidence for the very reasons of national security and our confidence that justice is being carried out correctly.

Otherwise we are in danger that all the general public comes away with is that this is just about somebody having a bit of paper with Tony Blair's address on it.

The secrecy does nothing to make us safer. Quite the reverse.

It allows conspiracy theories to flourish, and raises the question of whether there are other trials we do not know about. It acts as a recruiting sergeant for the very people who wish us harm.

Of course we want to get to the truth if someone was plotting a “Mumbai style” attack on our streets. That is why we have courts, and that justice needs to be seen to be done, not just pushed through without scrutiny.

As Reprieve's Clare Algar put it, “To hold trials entirely in secret is an assault on the fundamental principles of British justice”.

Even if we know some of the detail of the Incedal case, this trial still leaves justice undermined.

This is a real threat to the very British values that those who argue for the national security state claim to uphold.

Loz Kaye is the Leader of the Pirate Party UK.

Monday, 13 October 2014

'New' UKIP, by Godfrey Bloom

This is reprinted here at the author's request, with his recommendation to watch Panorama on BBC One at 8:30 this evening, even though "I ended up on the cutting room floor because I stuck to pure fact and not vilification or salacious gossip":

Some newer members have not, it appears, heard the term 'New' UKIP, coined, I believe, by Andrew Neil (perhaps Helen Lewis, New Statesman), but no matter.

Transition to New UKIP was not an overnight makeover. It followed a number of quite deliberate steps to fight the 2015 election. Believe me, I used to be part of the hierarchy.

  1. New constitution granting almost complete power to the leadership.
  2. An unelected party Chairman, Secretary and other senior positions.
  3. The 'adjustment' concession so member votes can be set aside by the leadership in secret.
  4. The curtailment of regions to select their MEPs with a much more easily manipulated national vote which also can be circumnavigated and has been.
  5. The withdrawal from a basic libertarian ethos.
  6. The suspension of due procedure for membership cancellation.
  7. The secrecy of the vote counting and refusal to publish members' votes (where are the national lists for the August 2013 MEP vote?).
  8. The quite obvious swing to main party political correctness as illustrated by MartyCaine's posts. A fundamental concession to the metropolitan press elite.
  9. The strategic advance in favour of a coalition in some form.
  10. The ruthless dogma that criticism of the leadership is disloyal to the cause, party, country. Where, I wonder, have we seen that historically?
  11. The outright refusal to allow regions to elect representatives to the NEC. Yorkshire Region is still not represented in spite of 400,000 votes. This skews the whole governing body to the south.
  12. The final say on PPC selection remains with the leadership.

Folks, I still vote UKIP, remain a member and advocate on TV and radio of UKIP. My record on this is above reproach. Long-term members who still remain know exactly what 'New' UKIP means. The irony is that UKIP governance follows almost exactly the EU method. The referendum 'no' vote polls are now the worst in 10 years. So who in Brooks Mews works for the government?

A few things for the record. I spoke to four packed houses in the north of England in the winter, exhorting people to vote UKIP in May. Head Office vetoed other appearances.

My continued technical support for the region for 12 months, post July 1st, has been vetoed. I paid all staff and kept Yorkshire on the road right up until the 1st of July.

Every TV and radio appearance has me endorsing UKIP. I am a founder member and have donated over £150,000 in the last 20 years in some format. All accounts are logged.

I flag these points up because there are thousands of new members who perhaps think this is how it always was.

On Mistakes and Strikes, by Clive Peedell

This and ​this are a huge embarrassment for the Tories, but also a depressing revelation.
It's no surprise to us that these reforms have been a disaster as this is exactly what we predicted - a huge mistake from start to finish. The NHA Party was launched precisely because of, and in direct opposition to, these reforms.
Within months of taking office, the Tories broke their promises of no top down reorganisation of the NHS and no privatisation. They ignored widespread professional opposition and forced through their disastrous Health and Social Care Act.
It's totally reckless of David Cameron to have backed the​ reforms without even understanding them. And his decision to make the protection of the NHS a central part of his conference speech is now shown to be disingenuous and inept, as behind the scenes he was regretting his own reforms as a huge strategic error.

The Prime Minister seems to care only about the dreadful impact they've had on the Tory party rather than on millions of NHS patients and staff.

This damaging reorganisation wasted billions of pounds at a time of unprecedented NHS austerity, has accelerated privatisation, worsened patient care and  left the NHS facing a £30bn funding gap by 2020.

No wonder Andrew Lansley vetoed publication the NHS Risk Register at the time, which predicted the current problems now facing the NHS would occur in relation to the changes.

It just goes to show that the Tories can never be trusted with the NHS, and that the NHS is electorally toxic for them.
We can’t run the NHS without suitable staff, we can’t improve the NHS without more staff, and we can’t recruit staff if pay keeps falling behind inflation and comparable jobs.

The nationally agreed pay system established in the last decade is now under sustained attack.

It’s outrageous that Jeremy Hunt has refused even a meagre 1% pay rise for 60% of NHS staff and 70% of nurses. One in five NHS workers are now forced to take on second jobs just to get by.

It’s also disingenuous to claim there has to be a choice between paying staff at agreed rates and inflicting savage cuts when it is this government that has wasted and continues to waste billions of pounds every year on an NHS reorganisation that no one wanted, on a market system and accelerated privatisation that  mean worse patient care, and on PFI loans that are bankrupting hospital trusts.

Why is Mr Hunt able to dismiss the 1% pay rise for NHS staff that was recommended by the Independent Pay Review Body, and yet David Cameron is unable to dismiss a 10% pay rise for MPs recommended by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. It appears there is one set of rules for hardworking NHS staff and another set of rules for MPs.

The fact that NHS staff have been driven to take strike action speaks volumes for the damaging, morale-sapping policies this government has inflicted on them.

For these reasons, we support this strike action. NHS staff deserve fair pay.

Dr Clive Peedell is Co-Leader of the National Health Action Party.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Reflections on Lib Dem Conference and Beyond, by Linda Jack

During Lib Dem Conference, I bumped into a Tory journalist, who couldn’t believe how upbeat and cheerful the atmosphere was given our 6% rating in the polls.

‘If this were the Tories, Linda,’ he said, ‘they’d be murdering each other by now!’

And there we have the enigma wrapped in a mystery. It doesn’t matter how hard you hit us, we just bounce back. Whatever anyone throws at our party, resilience is our stock in trade.

So, despite concerns about the internal issues in the party and our external prospects – at conference we are a family – having the odd spat but coming together on the last night for a good dose of gallows humour at Glee Club.

For me, the issue is very clear. A political landscape without a strong liberal voice will be all the poorer.

Both main parties offer a form of authoritarianism – even Labour didn’t try to centralise education the way the Tories have.

Both are more concerned with vanity projects and targets than delivering truly effective and joined up services.

Both give a nod to localism and then continue to hoard power.

Both take every opportunity to chip away at our civil liberties – while the Tories want to take away our human rights as well.

In this respect, I’m not sure the ‘Stronger Economy, Fairer Society’ works in clearly stating who we are and what we are for. If anything, I’d prefer Fairer Economy, Stronger (and Freer) Society.

As someone who never supported our decision to go into Coalition, I feel I am at last beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Even if we come out at the other end, blinking, battered and bruised – at least we’ll be back in the light.

Our leadership is getting back to stating our core values and what it is that differentiates us from the Tories.

Whether this is too little too late remains to be seen, but I was particularly moved by Nick Clegg’s commitment to parity for Mental Health – that is a real demonstration of what we say we are for.

The enormous force for good that both Paul Burstow and Norman Lamb have been in an area that has been ignored by successive governments, presumably because there were no votes in it, is a clear demonstration of what a Liberal Democrat government would look like.

However, if we are to rebuild trust with our erstwhile supporters and attract new ones, we need a much bigger dose of humility and the courage to be honest about when and where we have got it wrong.

Apart from the car crash that was Tuition Fees; or our inability to explain how signing up to cruel and vindictive benefit reforms furthered our aim of ‘no one enslaved by poverty’; or the attempt to justify Secret Courts, or ‘top down reorganisation’ of the NHS, allegedly ruled out in the Coalition Agreement.

Apart from all that, and more, we have a mountain to climb to rebuild trust.

I think it is harder for us as a party because we claimed to be different. We were going to ‘clean up politics’, remember?

People may have been unsurprised when Labour broke their promise on tuition fees, but they were truly shocked when we did.

Whenever I used to get told on the doorstep ‘you’re all the same’m I used to be able to say, ‘If we were all the same, why would I be in the Lib Dems?’

But sadly, we have not proved immune from the malaise that seems to infect anyone in or near power. So now we need to take our share of the blame for the rise and rise of UKIP, filling a vacuum as much of our making as anyone else’s.

So, where now for the party? Well, it won’t be good in May, but it won’t be as bad as our detractors would like to imagine.

There won’t be a coup this close to an election, and the party will grit its teeth and get behind the leadership. After all, a house divided against itself will fall.

If our manifesto has some strong messages like our commitment on mental health, although we have a way to go, since the pre-manifesto was a little disappointing and safe.

If we are seen to be recognising the error of our ways and taking the fight to the Tories on Human Rights, the Bedroom Tax, and I trust arguing to reinstate the Independent Living Fund.

If we can find a narrative that recognises why the electorate has lost trust in us; that owns up to, and apologises for, our mistakes; that sets out a clear vision and an even clearer programme to create the freer, fairer society in which ‘no one is enslaved by poverty ignorance or conformity’ that we exist to create

Then, and only then, will we have a chance to continue to be a force in British Politics.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

This House Would Not Police The World, by David Lindsay

This speech was delivered to the Durham Union Society on 10th October 2014 by David Lindsay, Editor of The Lanchester Review:

Thank you, Mr President. There is nothing that a Chadsman likes more than a warm hand on his entrance.

A few months ago, as I meandered back to my humble abode from the nearby hostelry and turned on my email machine, I found, nestling among the other unsolicited filth, the following:

“Dear David, Please could you come and second This House would not police the world, 10th October? We’ve tried everyone. Freshers’ Debate, so take your pick. Feel a little fresher every day. Cheers, Joe.”

Well, I do not understand why the Freshers’ Debate is tonight rather than having been last Friday.

It seems that it was moved in order to make way for the upstart Durham Student Union’s Freshers’ Ball, at which a member of the University’s staff seems to have assaulted a reveller. What was this Professor Green doing at the Freshers’ Ball, I should very much like to know?

But when a College Brother calls, then it is like the bat signal shining out from The Bailey, or, as I think of it, Friends With Benefits Street.

So I have dragged on my only ever dinner suit. Oh, yes, I have made the effort. You can no doubt see that a struggle has taken place. And here I am. Not exactly for the first time.

You play everywhere twice, once on the way up and once again on the way back down. So it’s good to be back.

Back where I was Custodian, so good luck to the candidates for that, from about this time in 1998 until about this time in 1999.

Back to where, although my record could have beaten by now, I made more speeches from the floor of this House than anyone else in the history of this Union, going all the way back to 1842.

And back to where, like at least one other person here this evening, I am a twice-failed Presidential candidate.

Tonight, I intend to show you why.

David Cameron and most of the House of Commons, including Mr [Kevan] Jones, sentenced Alan Henning to death. That sentence has been carried out.

If we find public beheading so objectionable, then why are we at war alongside, and on behalf of, Saudi Arabia, where that practice is routine?

Saudi Arabia, which, with Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and with conspicuously absent Kuwait is up to its eyes in both the ideological and the material support of IS, or whatever it is called this week.

As, of course, is our closest ally, Turkey, the government of which The Economist charmingly describes as “mildly Islamist”.

We have been here before. Pakistan has been playing both sides of the street throughout our latest involvement in Afghanistan, which has proved as successful as any and all of our previous such involvements.

Now, to put things at their very, very politest, Turkey is also playing both sides of the street. It obviously has no sympathy with Kurdish separatism (I don’t have awfully much myself), and it no less obviously regards IS as preferable to Assad.

Why would it not? How could it not? Like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Emirates, it created IS, and, like them, it regards the Alawite Assad dynasty as infidel. Not merely heretics, like the Shia, although would be bad enough. Infidel.

It is even more terrifying than it is in the case of Pakistan that Turkey is also, as used to be said of Prussia, not a country with an army, but an army with a country.

Last year, David Cameron wanted to take this country to war in support of IS. He was prevented from doing so by the much-maligned figures of Vladimir Putin and Ed Miliband. Mr Jones voted the right way on that occasion, and all credit to him for that.

But Mr [James] Bloodworth was writing articles on his website, holder of the line though it is against payday loans and TTIP but even so, calling for an International Brigade after the manner of the Spanish Civil War. He got it.

When Jihadi John set out for Syria, he was only doing what David Cameron wanted to send Her Majesty’s Armed Forces to do, and what Mr Bloodworth was inciting people like him to do of their own accord, despite the fact that that was and is a criminal offence.

There is no Third Force in Syria. There never has been. There never will be. Anyone who thinks that elderly émigrés sipping coffee in Paris amount to a row of beans, coffee or otherwise, in Syria needs to get out of not even the student union that this venerable House is not, but the primary school playground.

The same is true is of those who are now scrabbling about for some “Third Force” of Sunni “moderates” in Iraq. In fact, we all know who those would be, if they existed at all. They used to run Iraq, until we policed them out.

If IS really is now the great enemy, then we are not in any sense allied to those who are already in the field against it: Syria and Iran, which for all their faults more than bear comparison with Saudi Arabia or Qatar; the Iraqi Army, which we have already managed to bomb by mistake; Hezbollah and its Christian and other (including Sunni) allies, so that prayers are now offered for them as “the brothers in the South” in the Catholic and Orthodox churches of Lebanon; and, yes, the Peshmerga, although we must not be soppy about the likes of the PKK.

Only the alliances with pluralist, Anglophile and almost democratic Bahrain and Jordan stand in any kind of mitigation, and that assumes that Jordan and Bahrain, like the rest of the Sunni states, are actually doing anything, despite the fact that the Saudi Air Force, in particular, is enormous, mirroring Turkey’s largest Army in NATO other than that of the United States.

That Emirati female fighter pilot turned out to be a photo call, and in any case her family has denounced her and expressed its support for IS.

As one of Mr Jones’s colleagues, Barry Gardiner, put it during the Commons debate, we are not the poodle of the Americans, but the poodle of the last theocratic absolute monarchies on the planet.

It is no wonder that even the Foreign Secretary at the time of our last incursion in Iraq was present, and clearly on television, yet abstained. He is, dare I say it, as consummate a Labour machine politician as even Mr Jones, a man called Jack Straw.

Funnily enough, he shares a surname and a number of facial features with and the founder and eminence of Left Foot Forward.
We have gone to war in Iraq three times in as many decades. Every Prime Minister since Margaret Thatcher has either taken us in there or pulled us out.

That is almost every Prime Minister of my lifetime, which cannot be much less than half-over. It is more than every Prime Minister of most of your lifetimes.
Our purported policing of the world took out the bulwark against everything that has been unleashed there, whether the sectarian Shia regime that has emerged, or the reaction against it in the form of IS.

Saddam Hussein would probably have been dead by now, anyway. If he were still alive, then he would be 84.

We could have been dealing with what succeeded him within the Ba’athist tradition, which is far from perfect, but which is an awful lot better than the alternatives, as we now see.
Our perceived need to police the world took us to the brink of making the same mistake in Syria.

It caused us, with the compliance of the non-Opposition in that event, to do something very similar in Libya, with absolutely catastrophic results that are still being played out.

Of even our apparently good interventions, what good can be said?

The frankly non-Labour Tony Blair could not see the connection between welfare and security, so we left no healthcare system or alleviation of poverty in Sierra Leone, which now, however unwittingly, threatens our security, for how else can imperilling the very lives of our people be described?

Kosovo is a cesspit of heroin-trafficking, people-trafficking and eye-watering corruption under an ideology combining Islamism, vicious ethnic nationalism, and the Albanian Maoism of the late Enver Hoxha.

Speaking of Maoists, for what did we supposedly “fail” to intervene in Rwanda 20 years ago? If anything, there were really two genocides in Rwanda.

Yet Bill Clinton and Tony Blair continue to besport themselves with Paul Kagame, a leading perpetrator of one of those genocides. The Opposition would castigate us for our “failure” to intervene in its support.
And now, they are eyeing up Ukraine.

A generation ago, their cultivation of assorted wearers of the black shirt in tribute to their fathers and grandfathers destroyed a rather Anglophile multinational state in which historically Christian and historically Muslim areas and communities were bound together by workers’ self-management and by the eschewal of the global military power blocs.

In its place, they created a magnet for jihadi on a scale not seen until their more recent police operations. At the centre of it all was the original Islamofascist, Alija Izetbegovic, the first President of Bosnia-Herzegovina, an SS recruitment sergeant turned Wahhabi rabble-rouser.

Today, they seek to repeat the trick.

They know that their favoured elements in Ukraine are wholly unacceptable to the south and east of that cobbled together unit of Soviet administrative convenience that merely happened to be in place when the Soviet Union collapsed.

And good for them, in the south and the east. Svoboda are neo-Fascists. Pravy Sektor, now the de facto police force on the streets of Kiev, are neo-Nazis.

The coup was characterised by the prominent display of the picture of Stepan Bandera, who promised to “lay the severed heads of the Jews at the feet of our Leader, Adolf Hitler.”

He made no small progress towards that end. The regime supported by the Opposition is in explicit continuity with his. The swastika is now seen at football matches.

As for those Soviet monuments that are being torn down, they are war memorials.

If they had been glorifications of the gulag, then they would have come down 20 or more years ago. They are being demolished because the side that is now in charge took the other side in the Second World War.

They have stood until now for the reason that there are still streets in Britain named after Stalin, and a London local authority continues to maintain a Soviet war memorial with an annual wreath-laying ceremony.

Does the Member of Parliament for North Durham wish to go around Stanley demolishing Marx Street and Lenin Terrace?

Bring us back, in conclusion, to the present emergency.

In their adolescent opposition to any alliance with Iran, or with Assad’s Syria, or with Hezbollah, or therefore with that last’s Christian, Sunni and other allies, where would the Opposition have been during the Second World War?

Their lack of any such scruple about Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, the Emirates, and Kuwait if it could be bothered to turn up, suggest an answer even worse than the obvious.

The difference is that by the time that we fought the Second World War, we had to fight it. For whatever reason, our own country was under attack.

We do not have to police the Middle East. We do not have to police the world.

You are at university now. You are not in school. Even if the Opposition refuses to do so, you can, you must, and I trust that you will grow up, and support this motion.