Digital parties on the rise: a mass politics for the era of platforms

Paolo Gerbaudo - 13 December 2018

The old party system appears in serious distress, faced with challengers using digital technology as a means to achieve the utopian goal of a more democratic society.

In these times of profound crisis and political disorientation an organisational revolution is striking at the heart of western democracies and upsetting the party system.

Political parties seemed, of all the organisations inherited from modernity, the most impervious to the digital revolution that for good and many times for worse has infested all areas of society, as has become all too apparent at the time of Facebook, AirBnB, Uber and Tinder.

Yet, eventually under the combined pressure of a huge wave of discontent at neoliberal politics, and of the disruptive effect of technological change, which has contributed in eroding the competitive advantage of traditional parties, the old party system appears in serious distress, faced with challengers which are threatening to substitute the old parties with a generation of new organisations.... See more

Solidarity with migrants isn’t ‘terrorism’ – the Stansted 15 case shames the UK

Gracie Bradley - 11 December 2018

We should cherish dissenters trying to stop human rights abuses – not imprison them under anti-terrorism laws designed to prevent further Lockerbie bombings.

In March 2017, fifteen people tried to stop a secretive mass deportation to Nigeria and Ghana from Stansted Airport. Now known as the ‘Stansted 15’, they assert that the people on the plane would have faced gross human rights abuses on arrival, and that the mass deportation process was itself barely legal in the first place.

Their wholly peaceful and carefully planned protest was an attempt to protect people from harm, and to bring the issue of secretive mass deportations to public attention.

What the protestors were not prepared for was prosecution under the Aviation and Maritime Security Act. That Act, and the offence protestors have been charged with – ‘ intentional disruption of services at an aerodrome’ - was introduced after the Lockerbie bombing and designed with the most dangerous terrorism in mind. It carries, on conviction, a possible life sentence. So when then Attorney General Jeremy Wright gave permission to use this legislation to prosecute civil disobedience, it was a deeply cynical move, and a dangerous precedent. And it is a damning indictment of our government that today these peaceful protestors have been convicted.... See more

Save Ridley Road – how the community is fighting back against faceless developers

Danny Hayward - 10 December 2018

Whilst the media bemoans the ‘death of the high street’, across London, investors are trying to drive out the kind of local, culturally appropriate small retail that keeps areas alive.

For thousands of people Ridley Road is what makes Hackney possible. It is a place of work for more than a hundred independent traders. It is a place where you can buy good food for little money. It is a place that is full of music and joy and transformation like almost nowhere else in London, and the people who use it know that it embodies more than any archive the complex experience of generations of the people who have moved through the borough and fought to make it what it is.

It is, also, a prime piece of underdeveloped real estate, and it is under immediate threat.... See more

What the Anti-Nazi-League and Rock against Racism teach us about how to defeat the fascists

David Renton - 9 December 2018

The challenge is on the streets, at the ballot box, and through popular culture, as a new history makes clear.

Any readers of the recent “Populism” series in the Guardian might justly have put down their newspaper in a condition of utter disrepair. We were told that 25 percent of Europeans vote for populist parties. To which could be added the success of the far right in the US, India, and now Brazil. Among the many problem with the Guardian’s approach is that it left no space for resistance to the right. The populists have the support of the people, and anyone who disagrees can do no better than vote for the same technocratic and authoritarian neo-liberal politics which enabled the growth of the right.

Here, I want to discuss something different: an anti-fascist movement in recent history which rather than seeing workers as its enemy actively recruited them.

The first main part of 1970s anti-fascism was a musical campaign Rock Against Racism. Launched in 1976 in reaction to an interview with David Bowie in which he called Adolf Hitler the first rock and roll superstar, and a drunken concert in Birmingham at which Eric Clapton announced his support for Enoch Powell, RAR was a collective of musicians, designers and grassroots politicos engaging with the nascent punk scene.... See more

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70

N. Jayaram - 08 December 2018

Heed Monday’s anniversary, for talk of rights is increasingly becoming hazardous to health in vast parts of the globe

In mid-November, a spectacle little noticed by much of world media unfolded in one of the most affluent countries and one which, not only in jest, claims to have “invented human rights”.

Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights gave a public dressing down to Britain. Its authorities were ignoring the impact of “austerity policies” on the poor, he said, noting: “Changes to taxes and benefits have taken the highest toll on those least able to bear it.”... See more

Nurses raise concern about Royal College backing for NHS volunteers campaign

RCN Members - 7 December 2018

On Saturday the Daily Mail called for "an army of volunteers" to "transform" the NHS. Royal College of Nursing members have written to Dame Prof. Donna Kinnair, the acting head of the RCN, in response to their involvement in the "Helpforce" campaign.

Dear Professor Kinnair,

We, members of the RCN, have been concerned by the recent articles in the Daily Mail showing that our union is backing the campaign to find an army of volunteers to transform the NHS.

We respect and value the fantastic work of volunteers in our NHS, and believe that volunteers deserve the utmost credit and thanks for their contributions. However, the idea of a volunteer army is not a new concept, nor will this be the last time we see it appear as long as our NHS remains chronically underfunded.

Only a year ago, the Red Cross considered the state of the NHS to be a humanitarian crisis – this is not a job for charity or volunteers to fix, nor will they be able to. As such, we seek a more sustainable approach.... See more

Why grieving families need legal representation at an inquest

Merry Varney - 06 December 2018

Contrary to what the UK government say, many bereaved families need legal representation at an inquest to ensure a full and fearless investigation into the death of their loved one.

In 2013 Nicholas Harry's baby boy Sam, was killed. The police stated that either Sam’s mother Deanne, or her then partner Ryan were responsible. But they both denied it and blamed the other one. There was no other evidence so the criminal investigation came to a halt.

Because Sam’s death was ‘unnatural’, in the absence of any criminal prosecution, the Coroner was obliged to hold an inquest into Sam’s death to establish how he died. In Nicholas’ words, “the inquest was my final chance of any sort of justice….this was my only chance to get answers”.

Despite this, and although bereaved families are supposed to be at the heart of inquest proceedings, legal aid is not routinely available so, unless they have the funds to pay for a lawyer, they will often not be legally represented.... See more

The double standards applied to academic freedom

Nadje al-Ali - 05 December 2018

The political right is not only cracking down on academic freedoms, but has started simultaneously to become a fierce advocate of an aggressively anti-intellectual freedom of speech.

The Central European University (CEU) will move their main campus to Vienna. It has appeared inevitable for a while now due to a crackdown and targeting by Hungary’s far-right prime minister, Viktor Orbán. Yet, the significance and repercussions of this fact are profound and remind us that academic freedom is not only under attack in places far away from home. My own area of interest, gender studies, has been particularly targeted not only in Hungary but more widely in anti-gender studies movements and lobbies, including in Germany where we have also seen the rise of the extreme right.

Until quite recently, academic freedom, or rather the absence thereof, was something other people had to struggle with. Based in London, where I have been working at what is probably the most radical and progressive institution of higher education within the UK, I generally felt privileged and confident in my academic freedom. Meanwhile, I was acutely aware that colleagues elsewhere, mainly those researching and teaching in the Middle East, but also academics working in Middle East Studies in the US, were challenged by many different forms of encroachment on and violations of their academic freedom.... See more

The stories fascist Europe tells itself, and how to correct them

Adam Ramsay - 4 December 2018

Fascists are obsessed with history. Their ideology is less a doctrine about the economy or the future and more a story about identity and the past. It is harvested from half-truths about great victories and cruel injustices, spun into national myths about superiority and struggle, and applied as a bandage to wounded egos in times of trouble. Fascism is a story learnt in childhood, and the fight against fascism is a battle for truth about the past.

In Hungary, the front line in that argument was, for a moment, led by Kálmán Sütö, the homeless former truck driver who sells the country’s street magazine outside the gold-plated national parliament. When Viktor Orbán’s government erected a monument to “the victims of the Nazis” not far from Kálmán’s patch, he made a placard: “Horthy was the biggest Nazi of them all!”, and signed it “Kálmán the historian”. The iconography of the memorial implies that Hungary as a whole was the victim, deflecting from the historical reality that under Miclós Horthy, the country was fascist in its own right.... See more

Stop and search doesn't solve knife crime, so why not try something new?

Kam Gill - 10 November 2018

Stop and Search is to modern policing what bloodletting was to ancient medicine - ineffective, but clung to.

Stop and Search is to modern policing what bloodletting was to ancient medicine. An ineffective ‘cure’, which, in the absence of alternatives, gets tried again and again, despite its propensity to make the situation worse. Each failure causes its proponents to double down and call for more.

This week a sixteen year old boy was killed in Tulse Hill, the fifth in six days, bringing the total number of homicides in London to 119 this year. In response, calls for increased stop and search have become strident. The response from politicians and police has been at best confused.... See more

Labour history shows us where workers “took back control” without building walls

Steven Parfitt - 9 November 2018

Current debates on automation, precarity, identity and internationalism would do well to better observe the lessons of labour history.

Labour history should be a field in demand. Jeremy Corbyn appears as a possible British Prime Minister, and a growing number of Americans see their salvation in strikes and socialism. Journalists write endlessly about the “white working class,” a force with the power to elect Trump, vote for Brexit, and support a slew of rightist demagogues across Europe. Shelves of books anticipate full automation and the end of work, or the casualisation of work, or the rise of a post capitalist order from within the existing system. These events and trends all have a past, and they can and must be found in the history of work, workers, and their movements.

Yet labour history is the subject that dare not speak its name. Unions no longer promote their own history with the old enthusiasm... See more

Why politicians need to 'take responsibility' for children's health too

Al Aynsley-Green - 9 November 2018

This government is betraying children on a grand scale, and making positive ‘choices’ impossible.

Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health rightly points out that preventing ill health is crucially important in tackling the soaring costs of health care. This week he exhorts people to “take responsibility” for their health.

But he omits to say that much adult ill health has its roots in childhood. And current government policy is not only failing to give children to the best start in life, but creating an economic environment driven by austerity where parents and families are unable to take control of their children’s health.... See more

Why healthcare for all is a feminist issue

Feminist Fightback - 7 November 2018

Health charges for migrants are hitting women hardest. Yesterday feminist activists changed the sign on the new Millicent Fawcett statue in Parliament square in protest.

Yesterday dressed as suffragettes, activists from Feminist Fightback changed the sign on the new Millicent Fawcett statue in Parliament Square from ‘Courage calls to Courage Everywhere’ to ‘Feminists demand healthcare for all,’ in protest against NHS charges for migrants.

“We took this action because universal healthcare, like universal suffrage, is a feminist issue”, explained Eleanor Smith, who took part in the action. “This year marks 100 years since some women got the vote, but women under thirty and 2 million working-class women who did not meet the property qualification had to wait another 10 years. Today, there are exclusions too. Some people are eligible for free abortion and pregnancy services, which feminists have fought for, while others must pay enormous charges for the care they need.”... See more

Migration complexity requires a less conditional compassion

Georgia Cole - 5 November 2018

We must not replace misleading and dehumanising portraits of migration with mono-dimensional accounts of vulnerability and victimhood, which paradoxically continue to set those on the move apart from us.

At the end of a set of academic talks that dwelt heavily on the UK’s hostile environment for immigrants, an audience member raised their hand. “Why do individuals still want to come to England then if it’s so hard for them here?” One panellist recounted their personal story of how they moved to the UK “for love”, following a family member who had already emigrated from West Africa to the United Kingdom. Others drew on various experiences. They spoke of how the desire to be with family and friends made no journey insurmountable and no sacrifice too much. Our shared need for meaningful and caring human relationships was the overwhelming reason people gave for tolerating appalling conditions in Calais before moving onwards across the Channel... See more

The UK Government must not sacrifice our rights in the name of security after Brexit

Corey Stoughton and Jago Russell - 4 November 2018

Theresa May has made no indication or commitment that she plans to hold onto some hardwon vital safeguards after Brexit.

Whether you are a victim of crime, accused of a crime, or simply someone who believes in the value of fair play, we all have an interest in ensuring rights are safeguarded in the criminal justice process.

When it comes to future policing and security cooperation with the European Union (EU), the UK Government has been singular in its focus on fighting crime. Headlines like ‘Brexit could lead to security threat’ and ‘Brexit will make it harder to bring foreign criminals to justice’ reflect the Government’s fears over maintaining policing and security arrangements and determination to maintain access to the full arsenal of cooperation measures. Theresa May has made it clear, for example, that she is determined to keep the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) – the EU’s fast-track extradition measure – after the UK leaves the bloc... See more

The rising tide of national populism: we need to talk seriously about immigration

Roger Eatwell - 3 November 2018

There is a key democracy argument in this new book which calls for an urgent step change in our liberal democracies and a new type of political leadership.

In National Populism: the Revolt against Liberal Democracy, Matt Goodwin and I examine the factors which lie behind major political developments such as: the Brexit vote, Donald Trump’s victory, and the growth of political parties like the French National Rally (formerly National Front), the Austrian Freedom Party, the Alternative for Germany and the League in Italy, whose entry into government in 2018 has been followed by its rise from third to first place in opinion polls.

Two broad academic interpretations have emerged to explain these developments. The first stresses economic change and its effects on ‘the losers of modernisation’/the ‘left behinds’. The second, and more common, approach holds that the key driver has been cultural. The rise of parties like the National Front began well before the onset of recession, and some of the strongest can be found in rich countries like Austria. For the culturalist approach, support is fired by opposition to immigration and by linked themes like law and order... See more

7 ways the ‘Finance Curse’ harms the UK – how can we lift it?

Andrew Baker - 1 November 2018

The City of London is a huge drag on the UK’s real economy. But we can – and must – lift the 'Finance Curse'.

In the decade since the financial crisis something has gone badly and obviously wrong with the UK’s political economy. Stagnating wages, low productivity and rising living costs have marked Britain out as an outlier in the developed world. Yet its globalised financial sector continues to generate lavish fees and windfall gains for a brilliant few. Now however, some sense of the downside of hosting an overactive financial sector is becoming clearer. The vigour of finance derives precisely from its ability to capture resources from the rest of the economy. Even as the host sickens, the City of London glows with unearthly health. The proposition that Britain suffers from a financial curse needs to be taken seriously.... See more

Why legal aid matters and what you can do about it

Oliver Carter and Charlotte Threipland - 1 November 2018

Cuts to legal aid are causing widespread injustice and likely costing the taxpayer more. The government are reviewing the cuts. We have a final chance to tell them we care.

Between 2010 and 2016, the Coalition government reduced the budget of the Ministry of Justice by 34%. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) brought swingeing cuts to legal aid, ending financial support for those who rely on vast areas of social welfare law – including most debt, benefits, housing, employment and immigration advice.

The result was an 84% reduction in the number of civil (non-criminal) cases funded by legal aid. Hundreds of thousands of people each year are now denied access to justice as a result of the cuts to legal aid... See more

Why Labour's pledge to "renationalise electricity" doesn't go far enough

Chris MacMackin - 1 November 2018

And how a Canadian province might show the way forward to deliver cheap, sustainable, democratic, planned electricity supplies.

Much was made of the Labour Party’s supposed commitment last year to renationalise energy. Certainly the pledge to return the electricity grid to public ownership was welcome. However, beyond that, there was no promise to nationalise anything. Instead, it pledged to support “the creation of publicly owned, locally accountable energy companies and co-operatives to rival existing private energy suppliers”. Meanwhile, a supplementary industrial strategy document suggests that most generation will remain private, with perhaps some co-operative and council ownership of small renewable projects

The reason most people would favour returning energy to public ownership is to better control prices and the sources of electricity. They seldom have to deal with the local grid company and never have to deal with the national grid. Thus, Labour’s focus on renationalising only the grid can not, on its own, address people’s concerns. Prices and tariffs are issues with the energy suppliers, which Labour has only pledged to compete against rather than nationalise. The source of our energy is an issue of generation, on which Labour has said little at all.... See more

How the precariat – and UBI - can stop neoliberalism from destroying the planet

Guy Standing - 31 October 2018

Taxes on exploiting the commons - both exhaustible and non-exhaustible resources - could be used to give people basic financial security.

Historically, every progressive surge has been propelled by the demands of the emerging mass class. Today’s progressive transformation must, therefore, be oriented to the precariat, driven by a strategy that appeals to enough of all its factions to garner adequate strength.

Unlike the proletariat, which sought labor security, the progressives among the precariat want a future based on existential security, with a high priority placed on ecology – environmental protection, the “landscape,” and the commons. By contrast, when confronted by a policy choice between environmental degradation and “jobs,” the proletariat, labor unions, and their political representatives have given “jobs” priority.... See more

The budget offers the NHS scraps – and fails to see off the privatisers

Kane Shaw - 30 October 2018

There was little on offer in yesterday’s budget to meaningfully help struggling hospitals, health and social care services. So it's up to us to organise.

esterday’s budget was a government playing to the gallery, desperately hoping to distract from its role in creating what promises to be the worse winter crisis since records began.

The Chancellor announced that mental health services would be getting £2bn a year by 2023-24. It’s not ‘extra’, though – it’s part of the £20.5bn already announced by the government in June. An amount that all independent experts agree fails to meet the needs of the health service... See more

Opposing labour market Uberculosis

Ivan Manokha - 30 October 2018

Uber is appealing the ruling that its drivers deserve workers’ rights. Meanwhile its drivers show strike action is possible against ‘platform capitalism’.

French philosopher Michel Foucault once observed that the liberty of men is never entirely assured by the institutions and laws that are intended to guarantee them, as all of them are quite capable of being turned around. Liberty, on this view, is a practice - a constant dialectic between the forces that may encroach on the existing laws and rights protecting individual freedom, and those social actors who mobilize to protect them... See more

The 'Big Four' and the UK government: too close for comfort

Stephen Hornsby - 30 October 2018

In the 'Big Four' accountancy investigations, can independent regulators bite the hand on which central government feeds?

The ‘Big Four’ accountants - an oligopoly if ever there was one as Bill Michael of KPMG has freely admitted - are charged with lowballing statutory audit services to major companies in the UK in order to gain much more lucrative advisory work. As a result (it is said) the audit work is done poorly and this has contributed to the series of scandals such as Carillion and BHS. What is more, it is also said that the 'Big Four' have little incentive to give the sometimes necessary bad news to their client (and therefore the market) for fear of losing the tasty advisory work for which the statutory audit has provided such an unappetising entrée... See more

George Osborne’s Evening Standard under fire (again) over lucrative Uber deal

James Cusick - 26 October 2018

Exclusive: Politicians call on UK advertising watchdog to investigate paid-for content dressed up as news at London’s biggest paper, after glowing articles about the controversial taxi app firm appear – but with no mention of sponsorship in hundreds of thousands of copies of the newspaper

There are widespread calls for the UK’s advertising regulator to mount a fast-track investigation into George Osborne’s Evening Standard following the publication this week of an effusive interview with Uber’s chief executive. The article, presented as news, failed to inform readers that Uber is one of the key partners in a £3 million commercial deal – called Future London – with the London paper for “money-can’t-buy” positive news and comment, as revealed by openDemocracy earlier this summer.

The Standard told openDemocracy that it was "made clear in the article that Uber supported the Future London Initiative." But hundreds of thousands of copies of the paper distributed throughout London on Tuesday made no mention of Future London, the paper’s rebranded commercial tie-in with Uber, Google and other companies.... See more

"Deal" or "Secret Deal" – the EU-UK trade deal looks even more secretive than TTIP

Tamasin Cave and Kenneth Haar - 25 October 2018

While the media focus on the withdrawal deal, City lobbyists are working to set the agenda of the future EU-UK trade deal, whilst the public is kept in the dark.

Since the British voted to leave the EU, corporate lobbyists have been working to ensure any future EU-UK trade deal delivers maximum benefits and as little disruption to them as possible. Not least financial sector lobbyists, who have been lobbying hard to influence a future EU-UK trade deal that serves the sector, not just in London but across Europe as well.

Their proposals include plans that would lead to weakened regulations and specific threats to the public interest, such as ‘special courts’ that allow banks to sue governments if they adopt rules the financial sector finds unfair, such as attempts to introduce a small tax on financial transactions... See more

Twenty years on from devolution, the UK’s fiscal and economic model is still broken

Eurfyl ap Gwilym - 25 October 2018

The ‘deficit’ is unevenly distributed, with investment in R&D, transport and the arts still heavily skewed to the South East. Post-Brexit, is it time for a change?

Anniversaries and major events often give us pause for thought: a time to reflect on the past and to look forward to the future. Next year sees the twentieth anniversary of the people of Scotland and Wales voting in favour of devolution. At the same time the UK is expected to leave the European Union. So, how have Scotland and Wales fared economically over the last twenty years? Have the fiscal arrangements worked? And could the repercussions of Brexit be a catalyst to deliver better economic and fiscal outcomes in the future, not only for the two devolved nations but also to many regions of England?

Brexit is expected to have a major impact on the UK economy with the effect being markedly different in various parts of the UK (1). While there is much debate and disagreement regarding the medium to long term economic impact of Brexit a useful exercise is to look at the current state of the UK economy and how the picture differs across the nations and regions. Such an analysis offers a good starting point for consideration of the fiscal strategy that should be pursued by the UK Government post Brexit... See more

The populists: what is to be done?

Robin Wilson - 24 October 2018

It is all too easy to throw up one’s hands in despair at the advance of the populists. Easy, but wrong.

The United States, Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Italy, the Philippines … and shortly Brazil: radical-right populists are now in power in big and powerful states around the globe. ‘Brexit’ was a conjunctural victory for them in Britain which they hope to render permanent by ensuring the UK leaves the European Union – however unpopular that may become and at whatever cost.... See more

Upfront NHS charges one year on - 6 reasons why they harm us all

Ed Jones - 22 October 2018

And what can we do to stop these harmful charges?

When you’re expecting a baby the last thing you want to be thinking about is whether you can afford over £6,000 to go into hospital for the labour. For most people in England this isn’t yet a consideration but for the past year it has been the reality for many migrant women.

A year ago today, the government introduced upfront NHS charges for certain migrants as part of its 'hostile environment'. Before that bills were sent after people received medical care. Primary care (i.e. GP visits), visits to accident and emergency, and treatment for some infection diseases remains free for all. However, secondary care (such as being on a ward in the hospital or X-Rays), community care (including midwifery and abortion services), and care deemed ‘non-urgent’ is now liable for upfront costs for many migrants... See more

Trying to milk a vulture: if we want economic justice we need a democratic revolution

Adam Ramsay - 22nd October 2018

This is the concluding chapter of openDemocracy’s e-book New Thinking for the British Economy. You can download the full e-book here for free

“It is not possible to build democratic socialism by using the ancient institutions of the British state. Under that, include the present doctrine of sovereignty, Parliament, the electoral system, the civil service, the whole gaudy heritage. It is not possible in the way that it is not possible to induce a vulture to give milk.”

As the forces of entropy have continued to pull at the threadbare remnants of Britain’s empire state, Neal Ascherson’s claim in 1985 has become more potent than ever.... See more

Colonialism can’t be forgotten – it’s still destroying peoples and our planet

Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik - 18 October 2018

From the population decimation of the first colonies to the recent murders of environmental activists in Honduras, the arithmetic of cruelty and destruction is still unfolding.

The consequences of colonialism and imperialism, in all their forms and across all their epochs, defy our imagination. Unspeakable cruelties were inflicted, their scars and agonies are unspeakable.

Colonialism was, and remains, a wholesale destruction of memory. Lands, the sources of identity, stolen. Languages, ripped from mouths. The collective loss to humanity was incalculable, as cultures, ideas, species, habitats, traditions, cosmologies, possibilities, patterns of life, and ways of understanding the world were destroyed. Countless ecological traditions – involving diverse ways of being with nature – were swept away... See more

Our democracy isn’t working – it’s time to fight for it

Jon Trickett - 16 October 2018

Corporate power has captured the centralised state – but Labour’s commitment to a Constitutional Convention offers root and branch reform, writes Jon Trickett.

Throughout the 2017 General Election, Labour’s slogan ‘For the Many, Not the Few’ took on a life of its own. In the space of just a few weeks we announced a series of policies that if enacted would initiate a dramatic shift in wealth and power from corporate elites to working people, and breathe new life into the public sphere.

The policies signalled Labour’s willingness to break with the austerity consensus that has dominated Westminster for almost a decade, and it opened up the possibility of the creation of a new paradigm as dramatic as that of 1945 or 1979. The prospect of real change is now once more in the air... See more

The news is dead – long live the news?

Jim Chisholm - 13 October 2018

In a media world where the Big Five digital players are calling the shots, Jim Chisholm sees hope emerging from a growing breed of “new newsers”.

It’s 60 years since Francis Williams forebodingly noted in 1957 the closure ‘of at least 225 weeklies and 21 out of 41 regional morning dailies’ (1). Since then countless others from Bill Gates to The Economist have anticipated the newspaper’s extinction (2).

There is nothing we newspaper folks report more enthusiastically than our own demise. As I’ve written before (3), the news is flourishing but just not as we knew it.... See more

Of Tories, charity... and Islamophobia

Anjum Peerbacos - 11 October 2018

Muslims know they have a duty to support the poor. Tories can't claim this mantle - especially whilst they're riven with Islamophobia.

“Jeremy Corbyn, charity begins at home”, proclaimed Councillor Shazia Bashir as she stood at the podium of the Conservative Party conference last week.

Like Councillor Bashir, I am a Muslim woman. As Muslims we know that it is our duty to provide for the vulnerable and less fortunate in society. Islamic law states that those who are able should donate 2.5% of their income annually for charitable purposes – a practice known as ‘Zakat’. It is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The Quran states: "My Mercy extends to all things. That (Mercy) I shall ordain for those who have God-consciousness and give their Zakat and those who believe” (Surah Al-A`raf 7:156).

Research by Just Giving and ICM in 2013 showed British Muslims give more to charity per capita, than all religious groups... See more

Young workers know they're being ripped off - and that unions are the answer

Len McCluskey - 11 October 2018

Last weeks global food strikes show young workers get what trade unionism is about - and bringing new forms of digital organisation into play.

When I tweeted my congratulations to the fast food workers who took strike action last week, as part of their fight for fair pay and tips, I said they had shown the naysayers that unions are absolutely relevant in today's world of work, not least in the toughest of sectors.

I had some interesting, and telling, responses to that. “How was the fast food industry tough?” “How many workers in the sector are union members? Mystery?” and “Minimum qualification requirements mean minimum wage”... See more

From Windrush to Universal Credit – the art of ‘institutional indifference’

Ruth Lister - 10 October 2018

This government is 'institutionally indifferent' - to evidence, to criticism by the UN, MPs and inspectors, and most of all, to the suffering of those affected by its ignorant policies.

The past year or so has been marked by the exposure of the state’s ‘institutional indifference’ towards marginalised citizens and residents in a number of spheres. I borrow the term from Doreen Lawrence who used it in relation to Grenfell and the treatment of social tenants generally (1).

She identified institutional indifference in both the roots of the Grenfell tragedy and in some of the responses to it. And she linked that institutional indifference to questions of race and class, which meant that the concerns and complaints of residents were all too often ignored or treated as a nuisance because the residents did not count, were not worth listening to. Government – central and local - has now been forced to listen, even if they still don’t always appear to hear... See more

Forget early votes, do the maths, and start building for 2022

Mark Perryman - 9 October 2018

The lessons from conference season? Forget an early election – or a People’s Vote – the real prize to work for is a 2022 election that will be as era-defining as ’45 or ‘79.

Three parties, three delusions. Sorry to disappoint (depending on your point of view) but there’s not going to be a ‘people’s vote’ / second referendum, nor an early General Election, nor Boris Johnson becoming leader of the Conservative Party.

Johnson’s leadership hopes, at least, we can dispose of quickly. With Conservative MPs voting via a secret ballot for the top two candidates for party leader, Johnson is way, way short of getting his much sought-after opportunity. Daily Telegraph front page splashes at the drop of a column, and a fawning fan base amongst the Tory members, is about all he can now look forward to. And as his chances of a leadership bid disappear even both of those will rapidly lose their impact too. My heart bleeds... See more

To fix the climate crisis, we must face up to our imperial past

Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik - 8 October 2018

It’s time to join the dots between our overlapping crises of – and shared solutions to – environmental degradation, damaged health, racial oppression and gender injustice.

‘The invading civilization[s] confused ecology with idolatry. Communion with nature was a sin worthy of punishment… Nature was a fierce beast that had to be tamed and punished so that it could work as a machine, placed at our service for ever and ever. Nature, which was eternal, owed us slavery’ (1) – Eduardo Galeano

There are many ways to see colonialism. A breakneck rush for riches and power. A permanent pillage of life. A project to appropriate nature, to render it profitable and subservient to the needs of industry.... See more

A US-inspired reorganisation is about to hit England's NHS – 'help us stop it'

Jenny Shepherd - 8 October 2018

NHS plans due to take effect next spring could make general healthcare as difficult to access as mental healthcare already is – and lock future governments into long contracts with private firms, warn campaigners.

Members of the public, NHS campaign groups and trade unions are acting to stop NHS England from introducing a cost-cutting Accountable Care Organisation contract that will make it harder to get the healthcare we are entitled to. In their hundreds, they are donating to help crowdfund a legal challenge to this contract in the Court of Appeal later this autumn.

This legal challenge - brought by national campaign group 999 Call for the NHS and internationally recognised public law firm Leigh Day - is the only way of stopping the contract.... See more

Costing the country: Britain’s finance curse

John Christensen - 5th October 2018

A report published today from Andrew Baker of the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute, Gerald Epstein, University of Massachusetts, and Juan Montecino, Columbia University, NY, suggests that the cost to the UK economy in terms of lost growth potential arising from hosting an oversized financial services industry was in the region of £4,500 billion between 1995 and 2015. In other words, had the City of London been smaller and focused on more useful functions, Britain might have enjoyed a cumulative boost to GDP over this period worth £4.5 trillion. That is equivalent to around £67,500 for every woman, man and child in the UK. With another recession in the pipeline, the spectre of the Finance Curse looms darkly over the UK economy.

In the fallout from the 2007-8 global banking crisis the financial sector lost some of its aura of invincibility. Once the bailouts had been paid, what had previously seemed like rewards for hard work and quick wits began to look like the proceeds of incompetence and criminality on such a scale that it daunted the public authorities. But even if the criminality and self-dealing could be checked by regulation, is London’s massive finance sector nonetheless a drag on the rest of the economy?... See more

Labour’s new broadcast channels Trump to good effect

Kieron Monks - 1 October 2018

Everyone enjoyed Labour’s new broadcast. The four-minute redemption story served affirmation to believers and drew admiration from critics. This was the party on safe ground and winning over opponents, rather than the treacherous terrain where it is denounced by its own officials.

For many viewers, the tale of rundown communities rediscovering their confidence and dignity through new opportunities provided by a benevolent state was a distillation of the Labour mission at its most elementally pure. No flag waving in pursuit of some esoteric foreign goal. No saving the whale or disbanding the army. Nothing radical at all. Just bread-and-butter, no-barnacles-on-the-boat, common-sense civic nationalism that every warring faction with a stake in the big tent could embrace and claim as their own tradition.... See more

Why the distribution of wealth has more to do with power than productivity

Laurie Macfarlane - 30 September 2018

According to a new OECD working paper, Britain is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Net wealth is estimated to stand at around $500,000 per household – more than double the equivalent figure in Germany, and triple that in the Netherlands. Only Luxembourg and the USA are wealthier among OECD countries.

On one level, this isn’t too surprising – Britain has long been a wealthy country. But in recent decades Britain’s economic performance has been poor. Decades of economic mismanagement have left the UK lagging far behind other advanced economies. British workers are now 29% less productive than workers in France, and 35% less than in Germany. How can this discrepancy between high levels of wealth and low levels of productivity be explained?... See more

The undemocratic tide in Britain is real – how Labour reacts is crucial

Nancy Platts - 28 September 2018

For the first time, lack of faith in politics, politicians and government has become one of the top ten issues for Britain, polls show. How should politicians respond?

In his keynote conference address on Wednesday, Jeremy Corbyn pledged to honour the martyrs of the Peterloo massacre – those brave 15 killed fighting for democratic rights some 200 years ago – by “carrying forward the struggle to protect and extend democratic rights.”

It’s no small task – and Labour will need a clear plan to make this ambition a reality.

We’re currently witnessing a concerted effort to twist our democracy even further in the executive’s favour. Many are starting to notice.... See more

Brexit has revealed the Northern Powerhouse as a colonial enterprise

Steve Hanson - 28 September 2018

The Tories’ “Northern Powerhouse” has always relied on historical tropes about bootstrap industrialisation. But it now owes more to the Highland Clearances and Peterloo.

So James Wharton, the Northern Powerhouse minister, has been caught avoiding the north. No doubt he’ll be back up north again like a shot. It was on the cards anyway, as Theresa May reached for it recently, putting it back on the agenda.

Theresa May's recent reaffirmation of the Northern Powerhouse agenda (a term coined by George Osborne and then fully endorsed by his disaster twin Cameron) is unsurprising... See more

Financing a Labour government

Jan Toporowski - 28 September 2018

There are essentially three ways of financing an ambitious Labour Government’s programme of public expenditure. These are through taxation, monetary credit creation, and the issue of debt securities. The sections below explain how each of these three methods works, and their respective limitations. Those limitations mean that, in the end, a Labour Government’s programme will have to be financed by some combination of these three methods. A final section suggests that financial stability should determine the degree to which any of these three methods should be used in financing a Labour programme.... See more

Invisible Britain: The untold stories of those hit by austerity

Natalie Bloomer - 27 September 2018

A new photobook gives an insight into the lives and hopes of the people most affected by government policy.

ast year the Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow used his keynote speech at the Edinburgh television festival to discuss the disconnect between the media and ordinary people. Speaking about the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower he asked:

"Why didn't any of us see the Grenfell action blog? Why didn't we know? Why didn't we have contact?"

They are good questions and ones that all journalists and politicians should have been asking. For far too long people in social housing, the disabled, single parent families, and those hit by benefit cuts and sanctions have been ignored and even vilified by much of the media and political class.... See more

Labour’s plan for greater worker ownership is not ‘anti-business’

Luke Hildyard - 27 September 2018

This week at the Labour Party Conference, John McDonnell announced new proposals giving workers a small ownership stake in the companies they work for, thereby also entitling them to a small proportion of dividend payouts.

Labour’s proposals are based on the principle that when a company does well and generates a profit and pays a dividend, it should share a tiny proportion with the workers responsible for its success. No normal person would object to this. Given the UK’s well documented problems with pay stagnation, low productivity and huge pay gaps between those at the top and everybody else, proposals that put a bit more money in workers’ pockets, and link a small proportion of their pay to company performance, might seem exactly what we need.... See more

"Not on the NHS" - from grommets to hysterectomies - unless you act now

Greg Dropkin and Samantha Wathen - 25 September 2018

The government plans to exclude 17 important medical treatments from the NHS across the whole of England, with more restrictions in the pipeline. A consultation on the proposals is open til this Friday.

At the end of June NHS England formally announced its plan to withdraw 17 clinical procedures meaning they would no longer be routinely offered on the NHS. This move means treatments such as knee arthroscopies for patients with osteoarthritis, and snoring surgery, will no longer be available to anyone on the NHS. And procedures such as varicose vein removal, grommets for glue ear in children, hysterectomy for heavy menstrual bleeding, tonsillectomies, and treatments to release carpal tunnel syndrome or to remove benign skin lesions, will no longer be available to anyone on the NHS, unless complex criteria are met.... See more

Democratic Socialism beyond the New Deal

Cihan Tugal - 25 September 2018

We can lead better lives in an inhabitable world (for more than just a few decades) only if we chart a less governmental, less voting-based path.

The financial and housing devastation of 2008, youth underemployment, and ultimately the victory of the radical right at the polls has resulted in talk of socialism in America. Then the talk turned to growing organization, culminating in serious challenges to the democratic establishment. What many mean by “democratic socialism” is an inclusive version of the New Deal (though there are some who disagree). The original New Deal was white and male. LBJ’s attempts to break that mould remained ineffective and led to incurable divisions within the Democratic Party. Today, a revised New Deal can only rise on the shoulders of women, LGBTQ, minorities, and immigrants, who now lead the anti-establishment challenge. They perhaps can become the left faction of the Democratic Party and build a new country.... See more

Britain’s warfare state

Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis - 24 September 2018

Britain needs an industrial strategy. At the same time, Britain needs to move away from its imperial pretensions to police the world's oceans. The two factors are ever more interlinked.

In September 2017, London hosted the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair, the biggest in the world. Delegations of military officials and politicians from across the globe descended on the ExCel Centre in London’s Docklands to play pick ‘n mix with the world’s most deadly technology.

We were granted a press pass to the DSEI the day before it opened, despite applying several months earlier and repeatedly checking up. The pass came through only after we threatened to publicise the case. The opaque arms industry and the governments that support it do not like journalists or civil society dampening the buying mood.... See more

Radical democracy and municipal movements

Jeremy Gilbert, Rahel Sophia Süß, and Alessio Kolioulis - 22 September 2018

Can politics in cities and in Corbyn’s Labour Party come together to facilitate potent collectivities through an explicit commitment to radical democracy? Jeremy Gilbert in conversation.

engagée “Radical Cities”(eRC): In the last two decades, western democracies have been witnessing a steady rise of anti-democratic trends and disappointment with politics. Faced with these challenges, contemporary democracies appear vulnerable and unable to defend themselves. At the same time, a radical change is taking place. Movements in cities around the world – through platforms and transnational networks – are experimenting with new forms of democratic practices and political institutions. This reminds us that the radical history of the last two centuries brought about new theoretical toolboxes which activists have used to overturn and change those concepts that undermine key political notions. To what extent do current political movements challenge traditional notions of democracy, power, and social change?... See more

The councils trying to use Grenfell as an excuse to clear estates

Becka Hudson - 20 September 2018

Since a fire killed 72 people in London's Grenfell Tower, councils have been using safety concerns to try to move people out of housing estates.

It seemed, at least for a time after the Grenfell fire, that social housing was atop the political agenda. Housing was centred at party conferences, discussed in reams of media, and organisations from across the political spectrum issued announcements, green papers, and reports on the topic. Many argued that Grenfell must signal a turning point in how the UK houses people. Amidst this discussion, we were introduced to the fire’s likely causes. There were those named individuals, from councillors to contractors, and then there were its systemic roots. A deeply embedded ‘culture’ of neglect and dispossession: the ignoring of tenants, the arbitrary revocation of crucial safety law, and widespread social cleansing of blocks, estates and entire neighbourhoods under the guise of ‘regeneration’... See more

Why the public debt should be treated as an asset

John Weeks - 20 September 2018

The 20th century American comedian Rodney Dangerfield had a catchphrase: “I don’t get no respect”. The public debt is the Rodney Dangerfield of government finances. It is a long term benefit treated as perennial problem.

When we change our perspective on of the nature, size and ownership of the UK public debt we can see that it poses no threat to economic stability. Its size is modest and its burden on taxpayers is minor. If we treat the national debt as an asset, we can use it as a means to end austerity....

Fairness, respect and community should be the driving forces behind immigration policy

Charlotte Threipland - 18 September 2018

Leading immigration campaigners call on UK government to take values-based approach to immigration post-Brexit

The publication of the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) final report, establishing the UK’s immigration labour needs after Brexit, is welcome. For Britain to have a successful immigration and asylum system, we need a clearly defined objective.

However, economic labour needs are only half the picture. If we are to take the opportunity to create a new immigration system which works for everyone we must base our approach on values which reflect who we are as a country and why we run things as we do. Values like fairness, respect and community.... See more

There is an alternative to neoliberalism – in Britain and beyond

Laurie Macfarlane - 18 September 2018

Laurie Macfarlane introduces 'New Thinking for the British Economy' – openDemocracy's new eBook outlining a new economic agenda for Britain....

Parliament watchdog probes Rees-Mogg’s hard Brexit lobby group over “other sources of funding”

James Cusick, Jenna Corderoy, and Peter Geoghegan - 13 September 2018

Emails released by UK parliamentary standards watchdog reveal a ‘second’ bank account held by the powerful ERG group of Tory MPs, as they pressure May to abandon Chequers.

The UK parliamentary standards watchdog is probing the financial affairs of a group of Tory ultra-Brexiteers, led by Jacob Rees-Mogg and former Brexit Minister Steve Baker, openDemocracy can reveal today.

The European Research Group (ERG) has dominated news headlines this week, with reports of plots to oust prime minister Theresa May if she does not abandon her Chequers plan, and putting forward heavily criticised proposals for the Irish border.

In June, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) wrote to the ERG seeking clarification about how it uses taxpayer money – and other unknown “sources of funding”. IPSA was reacting to concerns about public money being misused to support the ERG’s high-profile political campaign for a hard-line, uncompromised Brexit.

The ERG has received ‘research funds’ (paid out of MPs’ expense claims, and therefore ultimately funded by the taxpayer) from the offices of key current and former cabinet ministers such as Michael Gove, Sajid Javid, Andrea Leadsom, Penny Mordaunt, Chris Grayling, David Gauke and David Davis. The group uses one bank account to lodge the funds received from IPSA for parliamentary ‘research’ services.... See more

“Britons never will be slaves”: the rise of nationalism and ‘modern slavery’

Elizabeth A. Faulkner - 11 September 2018

Right wing voices are using the spectre of ‘enslaved’ Britons to prop up their xenophobic and nationalistic appeals.

This summer the British government publicly expressed concerns that holidaymakers heading to Majorca might end up trapped in ‘modern slavery’. In response to this perceived threat, the UK Border Force launched a week-long awareness raising operation on labour exploitation which The Sun described, in its typical style, as “MAGA Slave Hell”.

The most interesting feature of this case is the specific focus on Britons as potential victims. It is a marked departure from the established convention of focusing upon ‘outsiders’ as both the victims and the perpetrators, such as foreign nationals working in nail bars and other foreign nationals forcing them to do so. Take, for example, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority’s (GLAA) 'Strategy for Protecting Vulnerable and Exploited Workers 2018-2021'. Or the 'Spot the signs' guide by the GLAA, which uses leading statements such as “unfamiliar with the local language” or “be distrustful of authorities” as identifying features of slavery .... See more

Why positive thinking won’t get you out of poverty

Farwa Sial and Carolina Alves - 11 September 2018

To say that poor people don’t have enough hope, tenacity and aspiration is to deny their agency as well as the size of the structural odds they face.

In a recent article in the New York Times, the development economist Seema Jayachandran discusses three studies that used Randomised Controlled Trials (or RCTs) to understand the benefits of enhancing the self-worth of poor people. Despite wide differences in context, all the cases explore the viability of ‘modest interventions’ to ‘instill hope’ in marginalised communities, concluding that ‘remarkable improvements’ in the quest for poverty reduction are possible.

One of the studies from Uganda, for example, argues that “a role model can have significant effects on students’ educational attainment,” so the suggestion for policy-makers might be “to place more emphasis on motivation and inspiration through example.” Another case study of sex workers in Kolkata Brothels argues that “psychological barriers impede such disadvantaged groups from breaking the vicious circle and achieving better outcomes in life,” so small but effective changes that address these psychological constraints can alleviate the effects of poverty and social exclusion... See more

Platform parties vs plutocrat PR: welcome to the future of UK politics

Adam Ramsay - 10 September 2018

Deserted by members, right-wing parties serve the rich, while people have flocked to centre and left alternatives, only to be smeared as "dogs" and "Trots".

The SNP has more members than the Conservatives. Labour is the biggest it’s been since the Sixties. The Lib Dems recruited nearly 20,000 people over 2017 and are the biggest they’ve been in 20 years, and the Greens have around twice as many members as UKIP.

These figures, published by the House of Commons library last week, tell an important story about the future of our politics.... See more

Northern Ireland: the border is coming?

Luke Butterly - 7 September 2018

Earlier this year, the wording in a Home Office recruitment campaign sparked a small controversy. As part of a drive to recruit an additional 1000 border force officers post-Brexit, the 21 jobs advertised in Belfast were only open to those with a British passport – “due to the sensitive nature of the work, require special allegiance to the Crown”.

In the north of Ireland, a painstakingly-crafted peace agreement allows citizens to identify as Irish, British or both – and are entitled to hold both or either passport. With less than half the population identifying primarily or solely as British, many would be excluded.

The ‘British only’ only aspect of the job adverts also echoed the decades of institutional discrimination that the Catholic minority had faced in terms of employment, where government ministers openly invited employers to discriminate.... See more

NHS charging for overseas visitors – wrong on every level

Martin McKee - 5 September 2018

Regulations that deny visitors NHS care – except for certain infectious diseases and to relieve death pains - are riven with contradictions. And will hit some unexpected victims as well as the intended scapegoats.

Given the choice, the British government’s guidelines on implementing their overseas visitor charging regulations would not have been top of my reading list. Especially because I had already read them once – but still had to revisit them to formulate an answer to a question on a list server. The question was, at least superficially, simple. The regulations contain a list of diseases which - for any visitor to the United Kingdom unlucky enough to have one of them – the NHS will still provide free treatment. Is this list appropriate? Is there anything that is missing? As is often the case, an apparently simple question opens up many other less obvious issues. Here are just a few of them.

The guidelines were written for health professionals and managers who must decide whether a patient is entitled to free NHS care, in the light of recent regulations restricting access for visitors.... See more

Prosperity and justice: a new vision for Britain’s economy

Laurie Macfarlane - 5 September 2018

Britain’s economic model is broken and needs to be radically overhauled. In 2018, this is not a controversial statement. But when the messenger is one of the UK’s most influential think tanks, backed up by voices as diverse as the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Global Managing Partner of McKinsey and Company, and the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, it certainly means something.

Today the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) published the final report of its Commission on Economic Justice (CEJ) – Prosperity and Justice: A Plan for the New Economy. The report is the product of a two year long work programme, led by Director Michael Jacobs and supported by a crack team of policy wonks: Mathew Lawrence, Grace Blakely, Laurie Laybourn Langton, Catherine Colebrook, Carys Roberts, Lesley Rankin and Alfie Stirling.

Throwing their weight behind the report are 21 Commissioners from the world of business, policy and academia. Although it is made clear that the Commissioners do not support every single recommendation, the fact that they all support the “broad thrust” of the report is significant.... See more

Liam Fox spends tens of millions on firms warning of Brexit dangers

Peter Geoghegan and Jenna Corderoy - 4 September 2018

The international trade secretary says even a no-deal Brexit would be good for British business. But his department has spent huge sums with companies that warn of Brexit dysfunction, chaos and disruption.

Liam Fox is often seen as the most bullish Brexiter in Theresa May’s cabinet. For the Brexit trade minister ‘no deal’ is nothing to fear. But Fox’s Department for International Trade (DIT) has spent tens of millions on consultants who have warned of “chaos” and economic disruption after Brexit, an openDemocracy investigation has found.

Firms that have won lucrative contracts from DIT have said that British politics is “so dysfunctional” that the government’s current Brexit strategy is “very unlikely” to survive “in its current form”. A DIT-funded trade body even complained that the Brexit trade ministry is “plagued” by indecision, with lateness “systemic in the organisation”.

Fox has also given thousands of pounds of public money to a company run by a former Westminster insider, and hired a scandal-hit contractor that had been accused of making excessive profits from aid contracts.... See more

Gender justice activists are organising against online violence – and they need your support

Bonnie Chiu - 3 September 2018

The burden of responding to violence should not fall on the most affected. We must do more to support these activists online, and offline.

Online harassment infographic. Image: Unesco/Wikimedia. CC SA-4.0. Online harassment infographic. Image: Unesco/Wikimedia. CC SA-4.0.More activists are moving online to organise. This is especially true for women, given the sexual harassment risks and other constraints they face organising offline. Yet, the online frontier is not safe for them either. UN Women’s research in 2015 found that “73% of women have already been exposed to or have experienced some form of online violence”.

There is no official or public documentation of the scale of this issue for women human rights defenders, but anecdotal evidence suggests that many have faced gendered online harassment – the repeated or sustained use of digital tactics and technologies to harass, intimidate or silence women. Online violence can also precede or enable offline attacks.... See more

Labour's democracy review should be about more than selection procedures

Neal Lawson - 3 September 2018

If Labour wants to shape the future, it must reinvent what it means to be a political party.

he looming Labour conference is, we learnt at the weekend, to debate and deicide on a number of rule changes, which in the current climate are obviously seen as a move by the left against the right. Which of course they might be. The party’s factions, left and right, live and die by the sword in a cycle of retribution, all about who has the numerical upper hand. This instrumentalist approach to politics will be the death of Labour, whoever wins out.

The more important issue is not whether the reforms hurt or help either side – but whether they deepen democracy within the party and ultimately whether they pave the way forward for a party political formation that is now way out of date for the 21st century.... See more

Belfast is welcoming refugees with a radical new approach: speaking to them

Stephanie Mitchell - 29 August 2018

We’re having different conversations about immigration, race and community. They are successful, and fun, and they could change the world.

In 2004, Belfast was rocked by a series of unprovoked racist attacks on its Filipino community, a significant proportion of whom worked in the city’s hospitals. At the time, misinformation about immigration, sensationalised by tabloids, was rife. In a population still reeling from decades of civil conflict, mistrust of minorities remained close to the surface. In response to these divisions, a large group of civil society organisations and charities gradually came together and, in 2009, started the Belfast Friendship Club, a safe space for people to meet and build relationships. It was aimed, primarily, at anyone new to the city for any reason, but also welcomed locals who now make up almost a quarter of the membership. And it has flourished ever since.

Belfast Friendship Club meets every Thursday evening, and over the months and years meaningful connections and friendships have been forged, irrespective of our backgrounds or identities. The club’s strength arises from an ethos of solidarity, equity, respect and the huge, loyal and expanding membership draws newcomers into its warm and welcoming space.... See more

Truly Project Hate: the third scandal of the official Vote Leave campaign headed by Boris Johnson

Martin Shaw - 30 August 2018

Look at the Vote Leave Facebook adverts alongside their more public propaganda, and you see quite how much it promoted racist ideas.

Boris Johnson’s weaponisation of the burqa came on the heels of new revelations about the propaganda strategy of the Vote Leave campaign which he fronted in the 2016 referendum. I argued here at the time that Vote Leave’s official television advertisement, the most high-profile item of Leave propaganda, was a skillful racist amalgam.

During the referendum, we knew that Vote Leave was sending a huge number of targeted social media messages. Its strategist Dominic Cummings now says there were 1.5 billion, with a large number directed at just 7 million voters in the final days of the campaign, but these were under the radar for pro-EU observers in 2016.

However, following the twin scandals around Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ, and Vote Leave’s breaches of election spending laws, Facebook supplied Vote Leave’s advertisements to Westminster’s Media, Culture and Sport committee. It is now possible to see that the TV ad was the centrepiece of a vast multimedia effort centred on a nuanced orchestration of racism to swing the Brexit vote.... See more

Ex-Brexit minister Steve Baker remained in charge of secretive Tory ultra faction

James Cusick, Jenna Corderoy, and Peter Geoghegan - 29 August 2018

Under the ministerial code, Baker was supposed to cut his ties with the European Research Group when he joined the government in 2017. But newly released emails show that as Brexit minister, he offered them private briefings on critical government policy.

Control and influence over a hard-line Brexiteer group of Conservative MPs remained in the hands of Steve Baker throughout his time as a Brexit minister, according to new documents obtained by openDemocracy. Jacob Rees-Mogg was merely the public face of the secretive group.

Baker led the taxpayer-funded European Research Group (ERG) of pro-Brexit MPs until being appointed a cabinet minister in 2017. But while in office he offered to address the ERG privately on government policy. These briefings were not recorded in transparency data from Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU).... See more

Labour must reject biased IHRA definition that stifles advocacy for Palestinian rights

Palestinian civil society groups - 28 August 2018

Appeal by Palestinian civil society to the British Labour Party and affiliated trade unions.

We welcome the significant growth in recent years of progressive politics centred on social justice and internationalism in the UK, especially within the labour movement. We, Palestinian trade unions, mass organisations and networks, representing the majority in Palestinian civil society, call on the British Labour party, trade unions, city councils, universities and civil society at large to reject the IHRA’s false, anti-Palestinian definition of antisemitism.

This non-legally binding definition attempts to erase Palestinian history, demonise solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality, suppress freedom of expression, and shield Israel’s far-right regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid from effective measures of accountability in accordance to international law.

The discredited IHRA guidelines deliberately conflate hostility to or prejudice or discrimination against Jews on the one hand with legitimate critiques of Israel’s policies and system of injustice on the other.

Palestinians last year marked 100 years of the Balfour Declaration, which played a significant role in supporting and entrenching the Zionist colonisation of Palestine. This typically colonial British declaration constituted a declaration of war against our people. It facilitated the birth of the exclusionary state of Israel that maintains a regime of apartheid and systematically oppresses the indigenous Palestinian people, stripping us of our fundamental and UN-recognised rights, including the rights to equality and self- determination and our refugees’ right to return to their homes of origin.... See more

Brexit disaster narrative: whose interest does it serve?

John Weeks - 27 August 2018

Underestimating one’s opponent and denying the possibility of the worst is not a sound political strategy.

Distinguishing between what one hopes will happen and what is likely to happen is central to the ability to cope with uncertain times. One obvious coping strategy is encapsulated in the phrase, “hope for the best, plan for the worst” – a useful cliché in providing insight into likely events as the Article 50 deadline approaches.

Worst outcome for hard line Brexiters?

For the hard line Brexiters, “no-deal” at the deadline qualifies as the best outcome, and Britain retaining EU membership the worst. To achieve the hoped for best, their strategy has two steps. First, should the May government reach a mutually satisfactory agreement with EU negotiators, the Tory Brexit faction would seek to defeat it in Parliament. If the May government wins parliamentary approval, that leaves Brexiteers with the least-worst result, Britain out of the EU but still subject to some EU rules. The details of the agreement will determine which rules continue to apply. Should Brexiteers win the Parliamentary vote, their strategy would be to prevent a second referendum. If they cannot prevent the second referendum, they will seek a wording that serves their Brexit goal.... See more

Brexit is a consequence of low upward mobility

Rachel Lurie and Ashoka Mody - 18 August 2018

In the Brexit referendum, UK citizens were pleading through their vote – and non-vote – for a fair shot at the future. On June 23, 2016, the British public voted by a 52-48 percent margin for the United Kingdom to leave its membership of the European Union. A popular view is that British citizens favored Brexit because they were swayed by misplaced nationalism and base xenophobia. Most academic studies, however, find that the Brexit vote reflected economic grievances: economically distressed regions had higher “Leave” shares; and people under financial stress were more likely to vote for Brexit. Recent research shows that people who are economically marginalized and see their social standing slipping away are likely to identify themselves with nationalistic and xenophobic ideas and seek solutions for their grievances outside of the political mainstream.... See more

A nation divided? The identities, politics and governance of England

John Denham - 16 August 2018

England is deeply divided. We are divided by our poverty and our prosperity; between London and the South East and most of the rest of England; yes, within the wealthier regions too.

In many parts of England, city centres may prosper while nearby towns lose their purpose and their able young people.

The lines that divide us are being re-drawn. Poor white working-class children from towns and the seaside are now less likely to do well in school, than most ethnic minority kids of the large cities. But race and faith, prejudice and discrimination still have the power to divide us.

We are divided by our experiences and our values. Age, class, and higher education are strong predictors of which of us is likely to hold individualistic cosmopolitan liberal views, and which a more communitarian social conservatism... See more

Ten years after the crash, civil society has come a long way. But much more remains to be done

Fran Boait - 16 August 2018

Ten years ago I spent the summer after graduating waitressing in Cafe Uno in Cambridge. The most political campaign for me that summer was the fact that I was getting paid below minimum wage because they could top up my salary with tips. At the same time, the western world was on the verge of financial collapse that would not only change the course of my future work, but also deliver such a shock to the world order that nothing would ever be the same again.

So what has changed in ten years? I’m guilty of banging the angry drum that nothing has changed, and saying that finance is still totally self-serving. In absolute terms, this is true. The vast majority of new loans continue to pour into financial and property markets, and this hasn’t really changed since the crash. Lending to the productive economy, including SMEs, has not grown. It was the failure to reform the financial sector, and the vacuum of conversation about what must be done, that allowed the conversation to morph into the need for austerity, which was of course completely untrue... See more

The NHS deal is not an acceptable settlement

Rachel Harrison - 13 August 2018

Since our members overwhelmingly rejected Jeremy Hunt’s dodgy three year NHS pay deal earlier this year, we have been consulting them on the next steps.

During the past few weeks, members have used the ballot process to tell reps on the ground about their huge disappointment at this pay deal and how let down they feel by it.

After nearly a decade of wage freezes and caps that have seen our dedicated NHS and ambulance workers’ pay pinched and left them thousands of pounds out of pocket, a below inflation wage increase for some of the longest-serving, most dedicated staff in the health service is not good enough. Our members deserve far more than a real terms pay cut.... See more

The enemy between us: how inequality erodes our mental health

Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson - 12 August 2018

When people are asked what matters most for their happiness and wellbeing, they tend to talk about the importance of their relationships with family, friends and colleagues. It is their intimate world, their personal networks that mean the most to them, rather than material goods, income or wealth.

Most people probably don’t think that broader, structural issues to do with politics and the economy have anything to do with their emotional health and wellbeing, but they do. We’ve known for a long time that inequality causes a wide range of health and social problems, including everything from reduced life expectancy and higher infant mortality to poor educational attainment, lower social mobility and increased levels of violence. Differences in these areas between more and less equal societies are large, and everyone is affected by them... See more

It's time for Labour to understand the Conservative Dilemma

Jon Trickett - 11 August 2018

Boris Johnson's racist comments demonstrate the new strategy of the Conservative party. Labour need to understand what it is if they are to win

So we know that Boris Johnson is prepared to use racist imagery. But is he also a fool?

To answer this question we have to go to the heart of the Conservative Dilemma. Because there is not simply an ideological war raging inside the Tory party. The fact that he is now reportedly under investigation for his comments about Muslim Women reveals clearly the underlying tensions in the Tory high command. Nor is it simply a question of personal ambition. Though there is plenty of that.

There is also a major debate about the electability of the Conservatives as a majority government. Let’s remember that they have only gained a majority once in the last 23 years and that was a slender victory which they then threw away in 2017... See more

It's time for the participatory society

Peter McColl - 7 August 2018

Our political model isn't made for an era of universal education. It's time to unleash our collective genius: and a new centre in Edinburgh is looking to do just that.

The world abounds with both opportunities and crises. We live in a time of unparalleled progress – scientific breakthroughs offer to achieve everything from a cure to cancer to self-repairing glass. We are more connected than ever before. We have the opportunity to replace many low quality jobs through automation. And we have more information about the world than in any previous era. But these opportunities are clouded by the rise of political chauvinism and threats ranging from climate change to antimicrobial resistance... See more

Democratic politics beyond liberal democracy

Phil Burton-Cartledge - 15 June 2018

In addressing the discussion advanced by Michael J. Sandel and welcomed by Jon Cruddas, we should begin with what is dying and what is vital about liberal democracy and progressive politics. In my view, both arguments are partly on the right track. The crises of progressive politics and liberal democracy cannot be thought through in splendid isolation from the long tail of the crisis in capitalism.

That liberal democracies have so far proven to be the most endurable governance norm for advanced capitalist states doesn't mean this arrangement of politics and economics is without tension, nor that we cannot improve upon it. The rise of authoritarian capitalisms, the threats to democracy in Eastern Europe, and the challenge populist politics pose on the so-called mature democracies suggest there's still some way to go before, as Francis Fukuyama put it, history comes to an end... See more

The ‘Preston Model’ and the modern politics of municipal socialism

Thomas M. Hanna, Joe Guinan and Joe Bilsborough - 12 June 2018

"Difficulty need not be impossibility—as can be seen in the path taken by the flagship Labour council of Preston in Lancashire. In a few short years Preston has gone from being one of the most deprived parts of the country to a model of radical innovation in local government through its embrace of community wealth building as a modern reinvention of the longstanding political tradition of municipal socialism. Community wealth building is a local economic development strategy focused on building collaborative, inclusive, sustainable, and democratically controlled local economies. Instead of traditional economic development through public-private partnerships and private finance initiatives, which waste billions to subsidize the extraction of profits by footloose corporations with no loyalty to local communities, community wealth building supports democratic collective ownership of—and participation in—the economy through a range of institutional forms and initiatives. These include worker co-operatives, community land trusts, community development finance institutions, so-called ‘anchor’ procurement strategies, municipal and local public enterprise, participatory planning and budgeting, and—increasingly, it is to be hoped—public banking. Community wealth building is economic system change, but starting at the local level."... See more

Re-energising Wales

Rhea Stevens and Shea Buckland-Jones - 2 June 2018

Rhea Stevens and Shea Buckland-Jones from the Institute of Welsh Affairs discuss their work creating a practical plan for Wales to move to 100% renewable energy by 2035... See more

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