Monday 29 December 2008

Demonstration against Israeli Attack on Gaza

I attended this evening's demonstration in London against the Israeli attack on Gaza. The bombings continue with mounting loss of life and suffering. It is widely understood that the assault on Gaza has been planned for some time. It is clearly timed as part of the electoral positioning of the political parties in Israel in the run up to the forthcoming elections. The Israeli political parties are vying to outbid each other on how more brutal they each can be in their treatment of the Palestinians.

The lack of decisive action so far from the UK government is a disgrace and the lack of firmness in dealing with this Israeli aggression by the incoming Obama administration is worrying for its future role on the Palestinian issue. As an aside the question also has to be asked about whatever happened to the Blair initiative?

I interviewed Jeremy Corbyn MP at this evening's demonstration. Jeremy is clear in his view that decisive action is needed from our government.

Attack on Gaza; The UK Government Must Act Decisively to Halt Bombings.

I put out the following press release on the attack on Gaza today. I will be joining the demonstrations outside the Israeli embassy. We must do all we can to halt this massacre.

Labour MP, John McDonnell, calls on UK Government to break off diplomatic links with Israel if attacks on Gaza are not halted.
John McDonnell MP said today 'The UK Government must threaten to break off diplomatic ties with Israel if bombings and attacks on Gaza do not stop. The government cannot stand by and do next to nothing as this mass slaughter goes ahead. Gordon Brown should take the lead in threatening to isolate Israel in the civilised world if these disproportionate lethal attacks continue.'

Tuesday 23 December 2008

Brown Commits Government to Heathrow Expansion Environmental Madness.

At the weekend many will have missed the statement Gordon Brown made virtually committing the Government to a third runway and sixth terminal at Heathrow airport. This is not just environmental lunacy, it is also an assault on the human rights of tens of thousands who will lose their homes or have their local environment poisoned by air pollution and destroyed by noise pollution.

Brown's position on Heathrow expansion exposes the existence in Britain of a corporate political complex where the interests of big corporations have so permeated government that the major decisions of this Government are indistinguishable from the Boardroom demands of the leading companies in each commercial sector.

There’s a brutal arrogance about the corporate political complex that we know as New Labour. This has been no better demonstrated than in the Government’s behaviour on Heathrow expansion.

It isn’t just that this Government like every past government has acceded to every demand ever made of them by the aviation industry ranging from tax exemptions on fuel to turning a blind eye to the environmental impacts of uncontrolled expansion.

It is more the way that this time government under New Labour has actively colluded and connived with BAA so blatantly to fit up and fix the decision making process.

Spurious consultations and ludicrously doctored scientific assessments; government departments and even Number 10 populated by staff either coming from or going to lucrative posts in the aviation industry and funds poured into political parties or pet government projects to smooth the path of decision making.

A scale of contamination of the policy process we have never witnessed so starkly in this country.

In the face of an immense and unprecedented broad ranging coalition of opposition to Heathrow expansion, the Government has legislated to fix the planning process so that opposition voices are stifled. Even Parliament is to be denied a vote on the issue.

But the world has changed since Government ministers and members of BAA’s board first colluded on how to fix this decision.

The arduous but extremely effective opposition campaign, particularly over the last 5years, has exposed the Government’s role and its arguments for expansion. The result is that deep in Government doubts are now growing about the value of being virtually isolated on this issue.

There is also a growing consciousness that many people will not now simply accept a decision that so blatantly ignores the concerns of a vast section of our population and that rides roughshod over our democratic principles and practices.

Democratic government requires the consent of the governed. The savage impact of Heathrow expansion not just in devastating local communities but also in increasing the risks of climate change is mobilising a campaigning zeal to deny that consent to be passively governed. Vehement opposition has not been seen like this since the suffragettes and the early trade union movement.

Inevitably in this period of recession arguments for Heathrow expansion will be dressed up as vital to saving jobs and the national economy. The hope of the Government and BAA is that short term economic uncertainties will override environmental concerns.

This argument may have some limited impact but with high speed rail alternatives being promoted offering the same employment and economic advantages whilst overcoming many of the environmental concerns, people are not so gullible this time round.

A wise Government would recognise that the game is up on aviation expansion at any cost and make a fresh start on determining a rational policy for aviation’s role in an integrated and sustainable transport strategy.

The alternative is a vista of a decade ahead of a sustained campaign of protest and direct action as Heathrow becomes the internationally recognised iconic battleground for protest against climate change.

I have attached the video of my speech at the recent Climate Change demonstration.

Thursday 11 December 2008

Government's Welfare Reform White Paper- Attacking the Poor with Prejudice

Yesterday morning I listened to James Purnell's interview on the radio where he decribed welfare benefit claimants as offenders. I wasn't particularly shocked therefore when I saw the detail of his welfare reform white paper.

The reality is that however they are dressed up these proposals represent the first step in implementing the long term New Labour plan to introduce full blown workfare and private welfare insurance.

At my weekly advice surgery I already see too many people who find it too difficult and complicated to gain the benefits they are entitled to.

I raised my concerns in Parliament, explaining that with 2 million unemployed, the country facing the longest and deepest recession in decades and also according to Gordon Brown a lack of affordable childcare, the Government has sacked 30,000 workers in the Department of Work and Pensions. These are the very people who are supposed to help and advise people get back into work.

If there are no jobs because of the recession, putting people under pressure and threatening to cut their benefits is brutal and pointless.

I also question the Governments priorities.

This recession was caused by a small group of very rich speculators in the banks and financial insitutions who brought our economy to its knees but who have walked off with huge bonuses and massive pensions. We now know that between £20 billion to £100 billion a year of tax payments is not paid by many of these companies and individuals as a result of tax evasion and avoidance.

In my view the Government should prioritise tackling this tax evasion by the rich rather than atacking the poorest in our society.

I interviewed Mark Serwatka, General Secretary of the PCS, whose members staff the job centres and DWP.