Wednesday, 17 September 2008

New Labour's free market economic disaster

At the weekend we had Lehman Brothers going bust , then AIG having a £75 billion handout from the US Government and today HBOS merging with Lloyds TSB. In the latter case the government has been bending over backwards to avoid having to pay out for another Northern Rock, even to the extent of breaking competition rules. So the new British banking behemoth will have 28% of the mortgage market - good for customers eh?

But lets not forget that although much of the credit crunch originated in the USA, New Labour have a lot to answer for. And who was Chancellor while the conditions for the crash were being created? - none other than Gordon Brown. Mr 'prudence', who claimed to have eliminated boom and bust, has now lead us into the biggest bust since 1929. The 'sound' economy he created over here was based on a housing boom and ballooning credit. That is economic mismanagement. Notice that the biggest casualties in all this are the USA and UK - the cheerleaders for free market deregulation and privatisation. Do you hear of a housing collapse in Germany or France - no they follow the European Social model much despised by Gordon Brown.

Blair and Brown encouraged the City-lead deregulatory financial model that got us into this mess in the first place and turned the UK into a tax haven for non doms and other tax dodgers. Well now the chickens have come home to roost. If Brown had any integrity he'd resign and if his party had any guts they'd sack him. Sadly, neither is likely to happen.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

We do not need GM technology to feed the world

A recent report has highlighted the fact that while enough food is being produced to feed the world's population 800 million people are still going hungry. The report, based on the findings of 400 scientists from around the world, and chaired by professor Robert Watson, the government's Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, also concluded that GM technology was not the answer to feeding the world's population.

Not surprisingly, these conclusions have not gone down at all well with agribusiness corporations like Monsanto. They don't want to feed the world, they want to make huge profits by controlling the food chain with GM technology which effectively puts the farmers, and the crops they produce, in their pockets. That is why the GM companies have been buying up traditional seed companies - they want to monopolise world markets. If they succeed you will end up with no choice other than to eat GM, unless you can source food locally. But if GM is used here in the UK it is unlikely that non GM agriculture would remain uncontaminated.

GM technology is a pig in poke. We are told it increases yield but there is little concrete evidence to support this. In fact there is evidence that GM reduces yield. GM crops are a vast unregulated gamble. We don't know what the possible long terms effects on the environment or harm to human health could be. There are a number of potential dangers such as harm to human health and damage to biodiversity and environmental systems.

The simple fact is that we don't need GM to feed the world. So why take the gamble - especially when the main beneficiaries are large corporations and their shareholders - not the poor or the hungry.

Gordon Brown provides too little too late .... again

Many people were disappointed when the government announced a stamp duty holiday for properties costing up to £175,000. It was rightly denounced as too little too late to stimulate the housing market and help first-time buyers.

Now we have the latest gem from Gordon - £910 million for household insulation to tackle fuel poverty. £560 million of which is old money. We also know that the work to insulate all the houses of the 'fuel poor' can't be done before winter. Which means the old and the poor are likely to freeze. Meanwhile the energy companies are making billions in extra profits and laughing all the way to the government bailed out bank. Much of the extra cash that they are making is going where you would expect - straight into the pockets of shareholders. The energy suppliers paid £1.64bn in dividends in 2007 - £257m more than the year before.

Caroline Lucas, Green Party Leader, has called for a windfall tax - she wrote:-

"When the fuel crisis started to bite, a strong leader would have set their sights on achieving energy independence. Instead, our prime minister went running to the profiteers-in-chief to beg for just enough more oil to keep us dependent. Just three of these companies – BP, Centrica, and Shell – together made £1000 profit every second over the first 6 months of this year. Every penny that the oil price inches up, is a new surge of cash from the pockets of working families, students, the elderly and the disabled, directly into the bank accounts of the world's petro-giants."

It's unlikely that Gordon Brown, who is deeply committed to protecting the interests of big business, will be shifted on a windfall tax. But his obstinacy in the face of the overwhelming case for such a tax might just result in him finally being shifted out of office.

The Green Party elects its first ever leader

Caroline Lucas has been elected as the first ever leader of the Green Party of England and Wales. I voted for Caroline and I wish her every success in the job. I believe that she has got the ability and integrity to make a good leader for the Party.

But she is going to have to be tough. When it was suggested (this time around) that the GP elect a leader I thought twice about it. Why? Because I know that the media agenda will be to neutralise the GP's radical programme of reform by making the GP conform to the same neoliberal agenda that every other mainstream party has adopted.

That means that our leader will come under great pressure to act and behave as every other leader does, and that isn't what the GP is about. They will also shine a spotlight into her private life in an attempt to rake up anything they can use to discredit her. They are probably sifting through her (recycled) rubbish as I write this.

The Party agreed, if I recall correctly, that we would have an elected leader for a two year term. There will obviously be pressure to increase this into a 'permanent' leadership position - so that the GP leader will become an elected dictator. What do I mean by elected dictator? I mean that the media like 'strong' leaders because once they are 'onside' - i.e. they have adopted the privatising deregulatory agenda demanded by big business and the City- there is little the rest of the party can do to change anything - remember Tony Blair? We have to make sure we resist these pressures. If we don't the GP will become like all the other parties - and then, like them, it won't be worth voting for.