One hundred people swayed the vote saying no to the import of US chlorinated chicken into UK markets. It was a wise choice for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, the health of those people who would be subjected to such meagre food hygiene rules. Secondly, animal welfare. The use of chlorine to wash chicken is a by-product of mass produced food. Where there is mass-production, animal cruelty and welfare standards fall dramatically meaning that the livestock we do choose to consume will have (if only slightly) better welfare conditions.
The last good reason for the rebuttal of chlorinated chicken onto our markets is purely political. Seeing as how we are leaving the E.U (rightly or wrongly…although we all know it’s wrongly) the UK is beginning to look to U.S interests like a new state from which they can reap huge rewards.
One small victory amid a waterfall of 2020 bad news.
Capitalism in an odd bird. It is more or less wholly responsible for the increase in living standards and global stability. The latter point is arguable but think of it this way: do you think that we would have less or more war if people were more devoted to nationalism than to capitalism? After all, transnational trade breaks down barriers and, with the simple threat of imposing sanctions, we can maintain some semblance of order.
That being said, capitalism is failing and is in drastic need of an overhaul.
Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, is the bible of modern economics and it states, as put best by Yuval Noah Harari in Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind: “people become rich not by despoiling their neighbours, but by increasing the overall size of the pie. And when the pie grows, everyone benefits. The rich are accordingly the most useful and benevolent people in society, because they turn the wheels of growth for everyone’s advantage.” This is the most common theme in arguments claiming that capitalism benefits everyone through “trickledown economics”.
I don’t know if this has ever really been the case. And, despite being part of what we claim is a liberal democracy, even today we cannot claim that the trickle economic model is really working as it should be.
Using the most commonly reported case, let’s start with Amazon. Amazon is a giant unlike anything this world has ever seen. An online marketplace that sells pretty much anything and that doesn’t have to cover the usual retail overheads. Jeff Bezos is the modern day success story. But it is because of a shoddy work ethic and malpractice that Amazon has been a so-called “success.” There are reports that the factory workers whose job it is to pick and pack the items we choose, are made to wear headsets that bleep in the employee’s ear every time they miss a quota. People have been fired for going on bathroom breaks. Workers have not wanted to have time off for childbirth for fear that they will lose their jobs and some workers are even said to have urinated in bottles because to go to the toilet might result in them losing their jobs.
In the world of trickle-down economics in which the wealth is meant to be spread among the workers and they can therefore pay taxes and perhaps even purchase the wares from their benevolent employer. Along with shoddy work conditions, employee pay is around £9.00 to £10.00 per hour.
One common argument we find ourselves constantly faced with is that it is better to have an employer in town than to have no employer in town. But you might as well tell all those people experiencing despicable mistreatment to “suck it up” and “be thankful”. The truth of the matter is that just because a company is the only employer in town, that people should simply settle for mistreatment and be thankful that they even have a job. We are not living in an age where employers should be able to get away with such activities. Having a job is one thing. Being treated with respect is something else entirely.
Capitalism is meant to fund economies. Again, Yuval Noah Harari captures it best when he says:
“Capital consists of money, goods and resources that are invested in production. Wealth, on the other hand, is buried in the ground or wasted on unproductive activities. A pharaoh who pours resources into a non-productive pyramid is not a capitalist.”
The same can be said for so many of the rich and powerful. Houses, cars, private jets, yachts. These things are some of the hallmarks of the wealthy but there is also another realm into which the rich funnel money which would be better spent either paying employees a decent wage or perhaps funding new start-up operations. The world is that of the offshore tax-haven. Not only are companies shirting their duties of paying adequate tax within the countries where they operate, they are also squirreling away profits for their own economic gain.
It is all very well boasting that you are employer and that you are doing x,y and z in aiding the economy and keeping people within jobs, but the boasting stops when their capitalist idea hits the real world. Money and power corrupt. Look at capitalism’s nemesis; communism. What may look like an understandable and worthwhile pursuit for equality consistently breeds dictators, as history proves time and again. Capitalism does the same. Entrepreneurs turn from imaginative and successful capital generators to wealth hoarders.
Much of the UK breathed a sigh of relief when Rishi Sunak claimed payouts for business and that employees would be given 80% of their wage whilst on furlough. However, despite being the Chancellor of the party “for business”, they offered not much shy of a middle finger to the self-employed.
The problems are myriad and systemic and, despite Boris Johnson standing outside No.10 and clapping for the NHS, have been created by the very government now trying its best to make a show of appreciation to the public services and other key workers.
According to the latest Private Eye (1520), the UK came 2nd in the Global Health Security Index which ranked countries according to their ‘”capability to prevent and mitigate epidemics and pandemics.”‘ So what went wrong? Why is it that a country that came 2nd in such an index had such a sluggish response to the Covid-19 emergency?
For the most part, it was Boris Johnson attempting to keep the country open for business. Secondly, the NHS was ill-equipped to deal with such issues due to outsourcing. This was the process by which different sections of the NHS’s prime functions were disbanded between private companies. Thirdly, and this is still under debate, the government’s stance against the European Union may have stood in the way.
Communications regarding the government stance have also been slow in coming largely due to the fact that the Central Office for Information (the office responsible for communicating to the country at times of war and emergency, was slashed and eventually dissolved completely in 2011 as a result of austerity measures. It was an easy choice because it was seen as an invention and tool of the “nanny state”.
Instead, communications come through third party agencies and were therefore slow to be put together. Boris Johnson has also had to rely on the BBC coverage of daily briefings, that very same organisation that he is trying to break up and throw to the wolves.
As climate change alters our landscape, we are expected to suffer at the hands of new and old diseases. Malaria, new strains of Coronavirus, you name it. That raises the question of just what are we going to do the next time around if another pandemic were to happen?
Hopefully, we won’t have Boris Johnson or his supporting cabinet who seem to think that lying would make for good policy when it comes to talking about PPE, death tolls and testing kits. We should also reverse any privatisation of NHS services and we should look more at publicly-funded emergency systems whether it is a designated communications network or pre-fab buildings ready to be up and running in a few days time. What is for certain – we need to stop focusing on media spin and how politicians look as opposed to what they are actually doing.
“Bloomberg has more money than sense. Only ideas and personality win in politics.”
Farage is a man who consistently dances the line around what is real, and what is not. He is a man who has blown trumpets and raised noise when it comes to political and – whilst his reasoning and facts are simply not there and whilst you may not agree with his politics – he has been extremely effective.
Nigel Farage, Donald Trump and Boris Johnson all have one common trait among them; they are personalities. Nigel Farage wears tweed, chimney sweep hats and walks the British countryside in order to stand up against his beliefs, and people can join in for a fee. A strange business model. Donald Trump acts like a successful businessman and professes to stand up for the average American. Boris Johnson bleeds a persona of a well-spoken, stuttering toff.
In the last week we found out that Boris Johnson’s partner, Carrie Symonds, is now pregnant with Boris Johnson’s child. The Prime Minister is about to enter a new phase of his life as a father.
From here on out the optics around Boris Johnson will change and this change in optics will help him and his cabinet greatly. It might sound very low-brow, but as Nigel Farage says, personality wins in politics, and the United Kingdom are about to see not a calculated, power-hungry man like his closest colleagues know him to be, but a bumbling, fuzzy-haired figure become a father.
Cue the “Exclusive” from The Telegraph (or is the Daily Mail that scores all those family photo sessions?) showing Boris as a new father, cradling a newborn alongside Carrie Symonds. And then of course there is the possibility of marriage. No doubt a large televised event that will have everyone yapping on about what kind of dress Carrie Symonds will be wearing. Of course, not forgetting the Telegraph/Daily Mail photo shoot.
This isn’t a sniping attempt. It is just a fact that this change in Boris Johnson circumstances is bound to unfold into something much more than the standard Prime Ministerial story. The UK is about to become witness to a drama.
I can’t help but think that the minds of Dominic Cummings and whatever “weirdos” he heaves up from the dregs of the advertising and marketing world (to which he has shown a substantial preference) will work the angle of the forming family unit and turn it into some kind of national drama.
A man who has spent much of his adult life in the spotlight curating and perfecting the personality of a lovable rogue, has also used this jokey laid-back approach to shrug off allegations of racist and derogatory comments. The sad truth is; (and again I must say that this is only a matter of circumstance and not some master plan) that Boris Johnson’s fatherly personality will change him even further in the eyes of the public as a loving fatherly lovable rogue, whilst the truth is entirely the opposite.
Dominic Cummings is very aware of just how effective optics are in getting what he wants and Boris Johnson’s upcoming fatherhood will be front and center whether the Prime Minister likes it or not. Considering Johnson’s usual spaff, pay-off and run, it is hard to imagine how he feels now that this child is being held front and center in the world’s media.
This is all a prediction, and maybe I’m wrong, but we know that narratives are a clincher. Donald Trump was a bolshy character who came to the limelight by promising to lead a kind of revolution against the “elite”. Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage both did the same -the contradiction of elitist fighting the elite is not lost on most people – and they invited the people to come along on the journey with them as they pushed a neo-empirical story-line of fighting the good fight.
Britain is now going to follow unkempt lovable daddy Johnson showing smiles to the camera whilst turbulence rides below.
The Northern Powerhouse brings to mind the coal burning days of old. Of industry and progression. Of manufacturing and textiles and everything in between. It was a concept developed by the coalition government (2010-2015) to try and boost entrepreneurial endeavours and transform the north into a hub of industrial and innovative excellence.
But was there ever any real determination to make sure that the plan became a reality, and that government would stick to its vision of a brighter and stronger future for the north?
An article released in today’s Guardian claims that “almost half of new jobs in England in the last decade were in London and the south-east, despite only a third of the population living in that region”. In the last decade, 1.8 million jobs were created in London and the south-east whilst only 0.6 million jobs were created in Yorkshire and the north-west.
The north-east has fared worse than most regions with a mere 1% of the total number England’s job increases. The area also has the lowest average disposable income.
The north has been let down by the governing politicians of the last decade and the term rendering the phrase “northern powerhouse” little more than a term to throw about when doing the election rounds. It placates by offering a vision, but the reality is that there is very little substance in it.
It is not only ruling governments which have let down the north. Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the party historically known for championing the working people of the northern territories, has often been hailed as more of a “metropolitan socialist”, focusing his energy in the capital.
Is it so surprising then to see the “red wall” of the north being dissolved by suspiciously highly-funded Conservatives?
But will the Tories boost the north as Boris Johnson seeks to “level up” the country, or will they fall short like the governments before them? The closure of multiple automotive manufacturing plants in the face of Brexit and the general downturn of trade expected as a result of leaving the European Union predict a slowing of the economy and therefore not much hope for drastic change.
Anyone reading the news nowadays would be remiss not to have noticed the surge in populism over the past few years. 2016 especially saw a seismic shift that only few people with their ear to the ground were able to predict.
With the rise of populism came a rise in factionalism and tribalism.
Socialism, democracy, capitalism, republicanism and liberalism pulled out the stops, jumped online, onto the pages of opinion pieces and the pages of newspapers and started swinging.
With competing ideologies came a rise in word-warfare and phrase-flinging.
“Politics of envy“
This is actually a phrase that’s been used for years by high earners, Tories taking swipes at other parties, and people of a certain class who disagree with liberal, democratic or socialist thinking.
If workers and/or unions believe that employees should have better wages, a place in boardrooms or at least a stronger voice in the workplace, they are deemed to be suffering from envy. Even people who think that higher earners should pay more tax are also often thrown under the “politics of envy” banner.
So, anyone on a lower rung of the socio-economic ladder who wishes to get ahead or go further in life.
But the phrase itself needs some dissecting.
Those people who are very well off have a tendency to protect themselves, their companies, and their profit margins. Businesses progress by making sure that they repeatedly turn a profit. This is because they have a duty to give their shareholders a healthy return on their investment.
But companies are only as good as their employees. If a construction company such as Persimmon Homes generates a multimillion pound profit, is it because of the person who started the company or because of the crews who worked through all weathers to build homes?
Work is the biggest killer outside of natural death. Workplace accidents. Slips, trips and falls. Muscular-skeletal injuries. People breathe noxious and hazardous substances. Later in life people will experience back problems, breathing difficulties, cancer through exposure. A vast array of problems from a lifetime of arduous work.
There is a romanticism about “an honest day’s labour.” Earning an “honest living.” There is truth in this. Working laborious jobs and seeing a job completed comes with an immense amount of satisfaction. But that satisfaction of a job well done should come with a wage that mirrors the worker’s toils. But those toils have a heavy toll on the body and, often without financial security through sustainable wages, on the mind.
On the other hand, higher earners have a longer life expectancy and are far less likely to suffer from those physical detriments that are incurred through physical labour.
Is it therefore politics of envy to want more money for your efforts or to want a certain quality of life? Or is it just politics of what is fair? After all, people sacrifice themselves.
“Politics of envy” is a phrase used to dismiss any kind of socialist thought, even that kind of socialist thought to which most people adhere. Like wanting a free NHS. Like wanting the more wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes or perhaps wanting to redistribute wealth.
Is it fair to claim that ordinary people looking for true representation within the political system are suffering from politics of envy when modern day politics is controlled by the dispersion and directing of capital?
So is it really politics of envy? And even if it is, how does that compare against those who partake in the politics of greed?
Henry Smith was re-elected as MP for Crawley in this year’s general election.
But what does Henry Smith stand for? We can get an idea by looking at his voting history. He has voted:
Against banker’s bonus tax – despite bankers being responsible for sinking the economy in 2007/2008
Against gay rights
Against laws promoting equality and human rights
Against a “right to remain for EU nationals” already living in the UK
Against benefits raising in-line with prices
Against higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability
For increasing rate of VAT (BUT against increasing rate of taxes for those paid over £150,000
For allowing employees to exchange some employment rights for shares in the company they work for
For more restriction of trade union activity
For reducing capital gains tax
For reducing corporation tax
For raising England’s undergraduate tuition fees to £9,000
For reducing government funding for local government
Against a more proportional system for electing MPs
For greater restrictions on campaigning by third parties, such as charities, during elections
For mass surveillance of people’s communications and activities
Against measures to prevent climate change
For selling England’s state-owned forests
Against financial incentives for low carbon emission electricity generation methods
Against greater public control of bus services
For capping civil service redundancy payments
Against restrictions on fees charged to tenants by letting agents
After a visit to the Cayman Islands, Henry Smith also supported the fight against anti-money laundering measures and criticised plans to introduce more transparency to the islands. In other words, Henry Smith supports offshore tax havens.
The Panama Papers have shown that offshore tax havens support organised crime including drugs and human-trafficking and terrorist cells whilst also allowing banks to hide money and avoid paying those taxes that could go toward public services.
Does Henry Smith stand up for the average person? Please check the site:
The election was vicious. Not the kind of high-quality sparring that we were once used to when politicians fought tactically over policies and with pride and decency. Instead, we saw tribalism, character assassination and online vitriol the likes of which have left most of us flabbergasted and confused.
Either way, people gave the Conservatives the majority meaning that, unless some kind of large-scale scandal arises, we are leaving the European Union. If Scotland and Northern Ireland will be part of that process is yet to be determined.
Boris Johnson may claim that we should let the “healing begin”, but he and the country now face some very serious questions. Such as:
Will Boris Johnson now open the enquiry into Russian involvement in the 2016 referendum? This is an enquiry into hostile foreign forces meddling in western democracy that Boris Johnson previously quashed.
What is the future for the Labour government? Do they continue to follow so-called “Corbynism” or do they move on to greener pastures in a bid to win back the vote of the working classes?
Will the government move toward green energy or will they continue pursuing fracking?
Will Labour make fresh moves to push Anti-Semitism from their ranks?
Will the government show the full document (and not the redacted version of which three-quarters were blacked out) in which they are shown to push a “pro-shale narrative” on the communities in which they plan to undertake fracking?
Despite leaving the European Union, will government still make sure that they follow the upcoming directive to make sure that transactions to offshore tax-havens are made transparent?
What do the government plan to do about disenfranchisement of the “North” and other areas across the UK?
Is the UK going to become a vassal state for the United States?
How is the NHS really going to be effected?
Now that we should be without bias, are the British public ready to return to fact-checking and verification and to take part in face to face discourse, and hold politicians to account when they lie or do not deliver on their promises.
Will Boris Johnson finally be interviewed by Andrew Neil?
Two things are certain:
1. Journalists have a hell of a lot of work to do to make sure that people are held to account.
2. Government have to make sure that they do everything they can to keep disinformation and misinformation out of the public sphere.
The Spectator’s 10th August, 2019 edition of The Spectator opened up with a piece called Trading places.
The article considers the argument that the UK should look positively on a trade deal with America in place of the trade deal which we already have with the EU.
“The reality is that free trade is almost always on balance a good thing, regardless of which country is it conducted with. That said, there will always be compromises to be made. Vested interests to be tackled. Product standards have to be reviewed…Good trade deals can even destroy native industries – but the overall effect of global trade is to boost the creation of wealth…The important thing is to make the right concessions.”
The U.K already has these concessions with the European Union but with the extra added benefit that, as a democracy, the United Kingdom also has a vote and therefore a voice in the passing of European law. The author of this piece is essentially trying to argue for a position that would make the UK worse off.
“Free trade with the US is opposed by some Remainers for no better reason than because it is advocated by Leavers.”
The author is clearly a hypocrite. What kind of bias does it take to argue that getting away from our closest allies (culturally and by locality) and toward the US would be preferential over the kind of deal we already have? To say that Remainers oppose a deal with America for no other reason than Leavers want it seems exactly what this piece is arguing…only the other way.
‘…the NHS has always outsourced some of its services – which last year accounted for 7 per cent of its budget. There is no reason why US providers should not be allowed to compete for this work on equal terms with British companies.”
That was not the line towed by Leave supporting parties and groups throughout the 2016 referendum and there is also solid reasoning why the US should not be competing on the same terms with British companies: American health care standards are lower than the UK’s. Not only are American health care standards lower, the introduction of more private interests within the NHS goes against public polling which shows that people want private companies kept the at the biggest possible distance from health care system.
The NHS is not the author’s only area of attack. On GM foods:
‘No one can point to ill-effects, and for good reason: GM foods are subject to far more scrutiny than non-GM foods.’
The reason for the GM foods being held to higher scrutiny is because…well…they are genetically modified. A crop created as opposed to one grown is no doubt going to undergo far more scrutiny because it has to pass myriad tests that would decide whether said food was safe for consumption.
The simple truth is that America uses GM crops as it helps mass production which ultimately makes the crop cheaper to make. European food standards are among the highest in the world whilst America have been time and again castigated for packing out their foods with copious amounts of highly addictive and highly fattening corn-syrup.
‘Then there is the practice of washing chicken in chlorine, which has been continuously cited as a reason why we shouldn’t do a trade deal with the US. Even the EU, when it banned chlorine-washed chicken in 1997, came to the conclusion that the practice was perfectly acceptable from a food-standard point of view – but banned it anyway on the flimsy pretext that it might provide farmers with a sense of false security. A better explanation is that it spied the opportunity to snuff out US competition for less efficient European producers.’
The pretext was far from “flimsy”. For instance, the European Commission decided that using chlorine to wash chicken dramatically lowered standards because it allowed farmers to get away with providing poor conditions. As highlighted by Ben Chapman writing for the Independent (Sunday 3 March, 2019) – “Advocates of this approach” (not washing chicken in chlorine) “say that it leads to higher standards of hygiene and animal welfare because farmers must take care at each stage of the process rather than relying on a chemical bath to kill any harmful pathogens after animals are slaughtered.”
The idea that European farms are supposedly “less efficient” is exactly because European standards are higher and do not lower themselves to mass-production quality levels, which results in questionable practices like washing chicken in chlorine. The author also argues that the EU was being protectionist in its endeavours, something which many conservative thinkers is one of the best outcomes of Donald Trump’s America. When the EU tries to put EU farmers and food safety levels first, it is chastised.
What it comes down to is facts. Is chlorine washed chicken okay to eat? Looking back on Ben Chapman’s piece for the Independent, the answer is quite clear.
Are we so loathing of the European Union that we would opt for subservience to the US and lower not only our standards but our global standing?
It is almost written in stone that Boris Johnson is set to be the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Boris has claimed to be dedicated to the Brexit cause countless times and his campaign to become the next PM rests solely on his ability to convince the people and the Conservatives that he is willing to keep a No Deal Brexit on the table.
The choice to keep a No Deal Brexit comes as a bid to secure support from the Euro-sceptic European Research Group (ERG) which is headed by Jacob Rees-Mogg – who has endorsed Boris Johnson – as well as support from other Conservative leave-leaning Conservative members. Boris Johnson has said that he would prorogue if negotiations were not secured which would provide the U.K with some kind of deal.
Proroguing is essentially the act of suspending parliament in order for the acting Prime Minister to pass a bill without contest.
By offering this result if negotiations are not successful, Boris Johnson is effectively appealing to both sides of the Conservative voters; those who want a soft Brexit and those who would prefer a No Deal scenario.
Proroguing is a means of circumnavigating parliament who are entitled to exercise their rights (and sovereignty) to vote on the outcomes of bills. This is no longer the case as Boris Johnson has claimed that he is not against proroguing. However, if this were to occur, the only way that Mr Johnson would be able to push through a No Deal, is if the Queen herself allowed it to happen.
This scenario does raise some concerns.
Proroguing would pull the Queen into matters of state which is against the notion of impartiality that the British monarchy is demanded to uphold by government.
If the Queen is asked by government to speak for the country and she denies the right to a No Deal Brexit, we are not only back to square one, but there will also be resentment from staunch Leavers and Euro-sceptics toward the Queen and the monarchist system.
The right to exercise one’s own power, to uphold sovereignty and to run with the empirical history of Britain’s past were crux issues of the 2016 referendum. If the Queen exercises her power and moves against No Deal, will the people decide that they no longer want the monarchy or will they accept the Queen’s decision to exercise her power, a cause for which the Leave vote was cast?
If, on the other-hand, the Queen moves in favour of No Deal, the U.K will be looking at a (already proven) decline in trade, transport and services as major service providers have already sought sanctuary on mainland Europe to continue to offer their trades to the rest of the trading bloc. Staunch Remainers would also be dismayed and morale and national spirit would undoubtedly hit rock bottom.