Always a pleasure to be with you sisters.

The time for sisterly solidarity feels more urgent than ever.

In the last few weeks we’ve had a New Right Polish member of the European Parliament assert that women deserve to get paid less because we are smaller, weaker and less intelligent than men.

We discovered that Uber doesn’t just rip off its drivers. It also gives license to sexual harassment of its women engineers too.

And, to add insult to injury hands out free leather jackets to its male engineers as a thank-you; but says that women engineers won’t get jackets because they don’t employ enough women to warrant placing an order.

And that’s before we get onto the subject of the Budget yesterday.

From a government led by a woman but that puts women last.

A government that can find spare cash to cut corporation tax but can’t find the cash to reverse cuts to universal credit.

That shells out good money on grammar schools but says it can’t properly fund the rest of education or the NHS.

That claims to be the party of working people but, year after year, refuses to give public sector workers, most of them women, that most basic of rewards for hard work – a decent pay rise.

But trade union women keep on pushing back.

We’ve campaigned for a woman’s right to choose in Ireland and Poland. And we’re ready to defend it here in the UK too.

We’ve said a big ‘no’ to sexist dress codes – whether to wear high heels should be a choice women make, not their bosses.

And women have been at the heart of our continuing campaign against that nasty, undemocratic, freedom denying Trade Union Act.

So thank you everyone for your hard work.

Conference, I’m proud of our collective resilience.

Determined that we should shout louder about our success.

And confident that we’re the ones who’ll get to shape our own future.

But I have to be frank with you.

We face the toughest political and economic climate I can remember.

A right-wing Tory government; the profound uncertainty of Brexit; the alarming spread of right-wing nationalism including, not least in the form of that orange nightmare that is Donald Trump. And his mini-me Nigel Farage.

I hope that President Trump doesn’t get that state visit to Britain.

But if he does, I think we have an opportunity to show the depth of our disapproval.

To demonstrate our support for our friends in the United States.

And to spell out, loud and clear, the new deal on jobs, rights and voice that working people really need.

And sisters, I hope you will agree with me that, black and white, gay and straight, young and old, disabled or not, it must be women who are up there at the front of that protest.

Read the Full Speech here.

During the Conservative Party Conference, Home Secretary Amber Rudd floated a proposal to force companies to publish the proportion of international staff on their books.

Such a policy would do nothing to address concerns over job availability. Instead, it would serve only to heighten division within British communities and foster anti-immigrant sentiment. 

Singling migrants out as a separate category in this way wilfully ignores the contributions they make to Britain and its society.

During her conference speech Rudd also said:

“I believe immigration has brought many benefits to the nation. It has enhanced our economy, our society and our culture.

This is why I want to reduce net migration while continuing to ensure we attract the brightest and the best.

Because it’s only by reducing the numbers back down to sustainable levels that we can change the tide of public opinion … so once again immigration is something we can all welcome.”

Policies such as this one – not to mention others outside the scope of this petition – do nothing to assist in changing this “tide” or in supporting the notion that immigration is a positive for Britain economically, socially and culturally.

This policy is also a simple one to dismiss: it serves little purpose and would not be missed.

The government should withdraw this proposal.

Sign the Petition Here.

One hears the term Neo Liberal used, overused and misused. I thought it might be helpful to try and get a simple definition and history and then some thoughts on how we should refute it when we engage with people who unknowingly accept all its tenets.

Classical Economic Theory

Neo (“revived”) Liberalism is an update of the Classical Liberal Economic theory that developed out of the writings (and misapplications) of Adam Smith’s work after his death at the end of the 18 th century.

“Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and the tolerable administration of justice; all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things.” Dugald Steward: Biographical Memoir of Adam Smith (1811)

The other commonly used term Laissez-faire Economics came from the expression, “Laissez-faire, laissez-passer, le monde va de lui-même (“Left alone, the world goes by itself”).

The state required nothing more than:

  • protection against foreign invaders, (extended to include protection of overseas markets through armed intervention)
  • protection of citizens from wrongs committed against them by other citizens, which included protection of private property, enforcement of contracts, and suppression of trade unions
  • building and maintaining public institutions, and
  • “public works” that included a stable currency, standard weights and measures, and support of roads, canals, harbours, railways, and postal and other communications services

Neo Liberalism

The concept originated in the 1930s as a response to the first major crisis of the 20 th century – the Great Depression. It continued to develop as a distinct body of thought in the face of the development of the welfare state and the increasing size and interventionism of central government. It now has its tentacles in the departments of nearly every major university economics department in the world and has confronted the other two major crises of capitalism of the last 100 years – the 1970s crisis of Keynesiasm caused by the breakdown of the Bretton Woods agreement in 1971 and the banking collapse of 2008 – with more and more extreme pronouncements.

Neo Liberals believe, in essence, that markets can do no wrong – left to themselves, and over time, they will correct any imbalances. Yet Neo Liberals also accept corporate monopolies and the way in which they rig markets – an interesting conundrum and the one which is its most important aspect for us today. Multinational / corporate power now far exceeds that of states. International trade agreements like NAFTA, CETA and the proposed TTIP all demonstrate the power of Corporate lobbyists. ISDS (the interstate dispute settlement process) that is central to the TTIP process is a free pass to Corporates to take governments to a private court if their future profits are put at risk because of actions taken by government which might improve the wellbeing of the state’s workforce. (See Veiolia v The State of Egypt http://investmentpolicyhub.unctad.org/ISDS/Details/458).

There is, therefore, a redefinition of both the corporation and the individual  A corporation is redefined as an arbitrary set of contractual obligations, not the repository of any production expertise. Corporations can do no wrong or should not be blamed if they do. On the other hand the individual is seen only as an entrepreneurial self.  Every disaster is the result of risk-bearing and personal fallout from choices in investment.

On the rhetoric of the “small state” that was the watchword of the Neo Liberal revolution from Reagan and Thatcher to Osborne, there is an acute disjunct between that supposed aspiration and the actual (hidden) desire for a “coercive” state – one that will force changes in the interest of the market and thus entrap or imprison a high proportion of the population. So in brief, Neo Liberals want:

  • Free Markets
  • Small State
  • Low Tax
  • Individual Liberty
  • Big Defence

For the individual this means:

  • The monetisation of everything or the extraction of economic rent from everything.
  • I am financialised , therefore I am.
  • Anyone not willing to yield to rent or financialisation (those in social housing / libraries / health care / free education) is marginalised and risks being portrayed as ‘scroungers.’
  • There are only two classes: the wealth syphoners and the syphonees.

The Refutation of Neo Liberalism

There has been a debate on the NEON thread on this topic for some time and most recent response to this destructive system was posted by Guardian journalist, Zoe Williams (living proof that that the paper does still employ the odd genuine socialist). It is the result of a Compass meeting and is still very much work in progress, but is an excellent starting point for us to consider when we engage with people in North Somerset.

  • The wealth of a country is in its people. The real waste of a country’s resources is in failing to create the conditions in which everybody can flourish.
  • Education is a public good
  • The state is the best of all of us, combined. It is our pooled sovereignty to protect us from predators and our pooled wealth to realise our ambitions.
  • The state is not there to supplement low wages and subsidise corporate super-profits.
  • Generosity drives progress (shared ideas, shared resources), and justice drives prosperity. Both traits are innate, not cultural, and they alter very little over time. We are as generous and just as we have ever been; we are the same people that created the rule of law and the NHS.
  • Inequality is wrong because it fatally limits your bargaining power, when you’re on the arse end of it. Not because someone else has a Porsche and you want it.
  • People are worth more than the productivity they add to an economy
  • If you can do a full-time job and not be sure at the end of it that you can afford shelter, food and warmth, then there is nothing wrong with you, there is something wrong with your employer, your housing market, your food supply, your utilities’ ownership structure, or most likely, all four.
  • A state in which people cannot afford necessities is a primitive, failing one.
  • The market is quite good at answering small questions, but quite bad at answering important and/ or long-term questions.
  • Only invest in a future you’d want to live in.
  • We have the technology to answer the pressing environmental questions; or at least, the technology to bridge our needs while we figure out the rest. All we need is for stupid people not to be in charge.
  • Markets are social spaces; they need morals as much as any other space where people meet each other needs morals.

Steve Timmins is on the Executive Committee of North Somerset Constituency Labour Party and is proud to be one of the many, many new Labour supporters in the constituency fighting for a Labour victory in 2020.

This petition asks that Liam Fox resign from his position as Patron of North Somerset Mencap – it is surely questionable that someone can be on the board of a governing body of a disability organisation while also voting in Parliament for cuts to disability benefits. At the time of writing, this petition already has 166 signatures – can we make it to 1000?

A few more petitions which you might be interested in

Reverse the ESA disability benefit cut

Stephen Crabb. RESIGN as Mencap Patron Pembs immediately. Voted for disabled to lose £30 a week ESA.

Scrap plans to force state schools to become academies

Free feminine sanitary products for all women.

Inspired by the best-selling book The Spirit Level, this is the story of what happens to the rest of us when the rich get richer. thedividedocumentary.com

North Somerset Labour are planning a trip to see this groundbreaking documentary at the Curzon Cinema in Clevedon on April 27th.

Watch this Space for further details or contact info@northsomersetlabourparty.co.uk if you would like to join our bulk-booking.

 

Its impact

“The collective income earned by the world’s richest 100 people in 2012 alone could end extreme poverty four times over”  

“The richest one percent has increased its income by 60 percent in the last 20 years with the financial crisis accelerating rather than slowing the process”

Oxfam, January 2015

The scale of inequality in the world is quite simply shocking and is getting worse with the gap between the world’s richest and poorest continuing to widen. This situation is most dramatic at a global level but inequality is also a major issue within the UK – the World Health Organisation reports that the life expectancy of a man in the Calton neighbourhood of Glasgow is just 54 years, 28 years less than that of a man in Lenzie, just a few kilometres away.

Reducing inequalities appeals to our sense of fairness and social justice but it also benefits all of us as it has been widely shown that everyone benefits where incomes are more equal – high levels of inequality are linked to economic instability, more violent societies and communities with much less social cohesion.

The current UK situation

The average annual income of a CEO of FTSE100 company is £4.3m, the average UK worker’s income is £26,500                                                                       (the Equality Trust)

When judged on differences in income, the UK has the 4th most unequal society of 30 countries in the developed world.  In 2010 (the latest year for which data is available), 45% of all wealth in the UK was held by the richest 10% whilst the poorest 10% held only 1% of the country’s wealth.

Given the evidence that more equal societies fair better over-all we might expect that governments of wealthy nations would prioritise addressing inequalities, striving to improve life for all of their citizens.  Labour party members may not be surprised to learn that from a high point in the 1930s, inequalities in the UK fell dramatically after the war until 1979 at which point the differences between rich and poor started to widen again until 1991 and, since then, the gap has remained relatively unaltered.  Far from working to reduce this gap, cancellation of initiatives aimed at reducing inequalities such as Surestart, cuts to local authority and Public Health budgets and dramatic reductions in welfare entitlements, alongside an increasing focus on blaming the poor for their own poverty may lead us to fear for the future. Foodbanks are currently opening at the rate of two a week and the number of people provided with three days’ emergency food rose from just under 350,000 in 2012/13 to over 900,000 in 2013/14.   In addition, since the start of the economic downturn, the percentage of people who are unable to meet unexpected financial expenses has increased to 36.6% and the proportion of people unable to afford an annual holiday is now 29.7% (Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK and EU, ONS 2011)

The North Somerset situation

North Somerset is the 7th most unequal district in the UK – whilst some residents are within the 1% most affluent people in the country, others are amongst the 1% most deprived. Even in a relatively affluent area such as Clevedon, 2% of children live in poverty and the food-bank opens twice a week receiving 1-3 requests for basic food at each session and in Weston-super-Mare South the proportion of children living in poverty rises to 44%.  (North Somerset Council Indices of Deprivation Briefing Note).  This inequality has a dramatic impact – a man living in one of the most affluent areas of the district can expect to live an average 10 years longer than a man from one of the poorest areas (for a woman the difference is 7.5 years).

The council’s Child Poverty Strategy, which aims to reduce local child poverty by 2020, recognises that broader social issues need to be understood in order to do this.  It reports that:

  • Educational outcomes for those on free school meals at all assessment stages are significantly below other children and below the national average.
  • Levels of debt and benefit claims related enquires to the Citizens Advice Bureau are increasing
  • The number of Job Seekers Allowance claimants has risen more sharply in more deprived areas.
  • Demand for housing in North Somerset outstrips supply.
  • Transport for children in deprived rural areas remains a challenge.
  • Children and Young People’s Services are concerned about many aspects of poverty

What can we do about inequalities?

The scale of global inequalities seems overwhelming but there are things we can do both at a national and local level.

Louise Branch

 

Wikipedia describes the TTIP as a proposed free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States. Proponents say the agreement would result in multilateral economic growth,while critics say it would increase corporate power and make it more difficult for governments to regulate markets for public benefit. Read more here.

There are many concerns regarding the impact the TTIP may have on our daily lives. Clare Moody our Labour MEP has provided an update on the TTIP negotiations at the European Parliament. Our former Chair and Agent Paul Dunn  wanted to share this update. Clare’s letter follows below.

08 July 2015

Dear Paul

I have received many emails about TTIP and am keen to keep correspondents updated. Please excuse this rather impersonal message. There were important votes in the July plenary session in the European Parliament this week, and as a constituent who has written to me on this topic, I thought you might appreciate an update.

As you know the European Parliament is in the process of adopting a resolution on the ongoing negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The European Parliament has no formal power while trade negotiations are ongoing, but it has the power to veto any trade deal once negotiations are concluded. In order to influence the TTIP negotiations at this stage, Labour MEPs have been pushing the European Parliament to adopt a text setting out clearly what we want to see in the final agreement and what we will reject. This is one of the most significant means at our disposal to ensure that TTIP negotiators take the public’s concerns into account

Like many of my constituents, I am very concerned about two particular issues:

Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)

ISDS is a dangerous system that gives greater rights to foreign investors over domestic investors. It has the potential to undermine our democratic law-making. Labour MEPs have taken a strong stance against the inclusion of ISDS in TTIP. Since we have developed and mature legal systems in both the EU and the US, there is simply no justification to have any kind of separate system in TTIP for investors.

We have consistently refused any kind of ISDS in TTIP, and have been putting pressure on the TTIP negotiators to drop their plan to include it. Therefore Labour MEPs have consistently voted against ISDS.

The exclusion of public services from any TTIP

There was also an amendment tabled by conservative MEPs to weaken a Labour amendment at the Strasbourg session. We had managed to introduce a strong paragraph calling for a full exclusion of all public services from TTIP, then conservative MEPs tried to remove a crucial element of this paragraph.

I was not prepared to accept this. Labour MEPs will not accept TTIP if it endangers in any way our public services, and we have made it clear that we will vote against the final deal if this is case. We therefore decided that we will vote against the European Parliament resolution if this conservative amendment is adopted.

I try to keep my website updated with developments, so please visit http://www.claremoodymep.com/tags/ttip

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

With best wishes

Clare Moody

Labour MEP for the South West and Gibraltar

01305 858285

www.claremoodymep.com

Twitter @ClareMoodyMEP Facebook: ClareMoodyMEP

Public Meeting Update…. we’ve some photos from the event…

Employment Debate; Claire Moody, Jon Dunn & Greg
Employment Debate; Clare Moody, Jon Dunn & Greg Chambers
Greg Chambers on Labour Party policy
Greg Chambers on Labour Party policy
Clare Moody presenting
Clare Moody – Labour MEP for the South West and Gibraltar
Jon Dunn presenting the view from Unison
Jon Dunn presenting the view from Unison

This country depends on its workers for its future prosperity. We must ensure that people who work are rewarded fairly and protected within the workplace. Setting the right balance between market freedoms and essential rights for employees will always be a tough task, especially when markets change and economic uncertainty is widespread. The Labour Party is focusing hard on getting this balance right and ensuring a strong economic recovery for this country that benefits all of us.

At North Somerset Labour Party we have organised a series of Public Meetings with a panel of experts giving short presentations on their specialist area followed by an opportunity both to ask questions and challenge the panel on these key topics. In February it was ‘Protecting an NHS’ at Clevedon, this month we will be at Gordano School in Portishead to discuss Employment. So if you’re concerned about low wages, zero hours contracts or the burden of legislation, then please come along to hear what our speakers have to say, ask some questions or just listen to the debate.

Public Meeting Poster