Could train-gate derail Corbyn’s leadership campaign?

I travel up and down to London pretty frequently. I haven’t often had a problem getting a seat on the East Coast mainline – and when there has been an issue, it’s usually because there has been some extreme weather issue and two trains worth of people have been decanted into one train.

So when I saw that Jeremy Corbyn had had to spend a journey to Newcastle on the floor of a train, I was a bit surprised but didn’t let it distract me from enjoying my holiday.

Today’s development in that story is worthy of some comment though. It appears that the Labour leader could have had a seat on the train after all. Virgin’s media people have ridden a convoy of coaches and horses through his claims.  In an unusual step, they have released CCTV footage and said:

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What is monetarism and what happened to it?

In the late 70s and early 80s economic monetarism was espoused by Margaret Thatcher and Sir Keith Joseph  who wanted a radical alternative to the prevailing Keynesianism of previous governments. The theory seemed to be simple enough. The idea was that the money supply was a key parameter of our economy. Therefore, if we wanted to control inflation, and it did need to be controlled at the time, all Government needed to do was control the supply of money. Inflation would then fall and all would be well. Very quickly the Government and Treasury economists learned that they could not actually do that. It was difficult enough to define what money actually was let alone control the amount of it. Is it base money M0, which is just the amount of notes and coins in circulation? Or is it M1 which includes travellers’ cheques and demand deposits? Or, maybe M2 which includes savings deposits? Or M3 or M4?  For anyone who cares to look it up they can find out what MZM means. There are lots of ways we can create money and lots of ways to try to define it. If I write out an IOU that is a form of money. As Minsky famously said, anyone can create money. It is getting it accepted which may be the problem.

But if we think about it, we can see that the money supply, no matter how we define it, does not tell us anything much at all. If the Bank of England were to, say,  create £10 trillion of banknotes and keep them securely in their vaults they would have absolutely no effect at on the economy. But if they were stolen and scattered around the country by dropping them from a proverbial helicopter then they certainly would have an effect. They would be spent. So it is not so much the amount of money that exists that matters. It is the amount of money that is spent.

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Jenny Willott writes…Mending the Safety Net – our proposals for reforming working age social security

Since last October, I have been chairing the Social Security Working Group, which has been taking a fresh look at party policy in this area.  We had a wide ranging remit covering all aspects of working age social security, from supporting people with disabilities to tackling child poverty.  We have now published our policy recommendations: it has been a big challenge, but thanks to a working group of passionate, talented people, ranging from experienced policy makers to new enthusiastic party members, I think we’ve produced a paper of which Lib Dems can be proud. You can find Mending the Safety Net here.

I thought it would be helpful to set out some of the key things we are proposing.  We heard a lot of different ideas and proposals from party members, experts and NGOs, and have sought to propose policy that is liberal and distinctive, but which, crucially, could make a real and practical difference to people’s lives.

Reducing child poverty

From the outset the group agreed that reducing child poverty should be our priority. We know that a child growing up in poverty will already be attaining less than their better off peers by the time they start school, they will be bullied more, have poorer health and are less likely to leave school with five A* – C GCSE passes. We felt strongly that it should be a real priority to tackle the barriers created for children that grow up in poverty.

Unlike when Labour first came to power, the majority of children growing up in poverty now do so in households where at least one person works. That’s why one of our key recommendations is to introduce a second earner’s allowance to Universal Credit. This could transform the lives of many children by dramatically increasing the amount of money going to some of the lowest paid families in our country. We also want to see an increase of £5 a week to the child element of Universal Credit for the first child in a family to help new families afford the high costs associated with a first child.

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‘Don’t let the SpArC go out’ campaign reaches another level

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Little did I know that the press release I put out on August 8th would hit national TV. The following day our funding crisis at SpArC – the Bishops Castle Leisure Centre in south west Shropshire –was front page of the Shropshire Star. Most of the County has been given a year’s reprieve to try to find revenue funding for their Leisure Centres. Not so for four centres in the South of the County. We face an extra 25% cut and a cut of £65,000 in education funding  for SpArC alone.

The community are rallying. We are fundraising to raise £50k to insulate the pool, the building and reduce energy costs and usage. We have raised over £36k already. The cuts for us this year were a kick in the teeth.

Last week I was minding my own business delivering leaflets (for our by-election) at the base of the Longmynd with my colleague Cllr Nigel Hartin from Clun (who had just been bitten by a farm dog) when my mobile rang – a novelty in itself with our poor mobile signal –  Channel 4 News wanted to come and film. Could I get parents and children there? Was this possible? It is August. Teme Leisure who run the Centre pulled out all the stops and parents and children poured in. We managed it together.

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Reminder: Wikipedia editing event at National Liberal Club tomorrow

Last week, Kat Bavage told us about an event at the National Liberal Club in London tomorrow. Liberals will gather to pore over the NLC’s vast array of historical resources and edit Wikipedia entries to make sure that the Liberal and Liberal Democrat contribution to history is properly recorded. Kat said:

The irony is however that although very many people read Wikipedia’s content (half a billion people a month or thereabouts) very few actually engage in creating it. In the UK there are perhaps only around 15,000 editors, and of these the majority only occasionally chip in to correct a typo

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What would you do if you were the Mayor of Calais?

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Inside the Jungle in Calais

I was part of a Local Government Association delegation last week to the ‘jungle’ in Calais.

The ‘camp’ is essentially a shanty town with tents and shacks (including ‘restaurants’) built from scrap materials. It is set in sand dunes next to an industrial estate and alongside one of the key roads heading towards the Channel Tunnel. Its occupants are mainly male and there are over 800 residents classed as children – including many teenagers. The bulk are Afghan, fleeing Taliban conscription and in places combat zones. There are some Syrians as well as Eritreans and Somalis.

The authorities are clearly hostile to the camp: residents feel that the inhabitants are responsible for nuisance and crime. The response to this in March was partial demolition –which meant that 127 children simply disappeared. Meanwhile the CRS (the riot police in other circumstances) harass the inhabitants – confiscating phones, destroying SIM cards – and using plastic bullets, which can cause life-changing injuries.

The camp does not officially exist. Nevertheless, provision has been made for some inhabitants to go into adjacent freight containers – adapted to provide a form of accommodation, aimed at women with younger children, because of the dangers posed by people traffickers in the main camp.

Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged , and | 13 Comments

Corbyn and NATO

 

That an absolute neophyte at serious politics like Donald Trump becomes the first American presidential nominee (from either the Democratic or Republican Party) to question Washingtons NATO article 5 obligation of “Collective Defense” shouldn’t surprise anybody.

But that a sitting Labour party leader fighting to continue in that job, and hoping to win the next general election, does the same is absolutely incredible. And the fact that he did so only a couple of weeks after flip-flopping over EU membership (from a very conditional “Remain” before, to a “get out now” the day after the Referendum)  creates the impression that he thinks the UK can go it alone, without the support, let alone the trust of European partners, on all foreign policy issues.

At the Birmingham hustings for the leadership elections last week, Corbyn said that when Russia threatens to attack or invade any NATO country, he hoped to avoid that by diplomatic means, and that he “doesn’t want to go to war”. But any historian can tell you that diplomacy can only speak softly if you carry a big stick for people who don’t respect any other kind of argument.  To put it in a Marxist metaphor: without the material fundamentals the political superstructure won’t function.

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Recent Comments

  • User Avatarexpats 23rd Aug - 9:59pm
    I note that, when Corbyn was highlighting passenger discomfort there was no mention on LDV...However, at any hint of Corbyn wrongdoing, WHOOSH... As for Simon's...
  • User AvatarStevan Rose 23rd Aug - 9:43pm
    Hear hear Lorenzo and Catherine Jane. Although I understand that a third of members voted Leave, which is more than a small minority. There are...
  • User AvatarBill le Breton 23rd Aug - 9:19pm
    Anyone who is interested in this subject but has no background in the subject AND who has half an hour spare could do a lot...
  • User AvatarStevan Rose 23rd Aug - 8:53pm
    "What do you mean you were sitting on the floor next to the toilet on the 6.53 to Woking? – en suite facilities that’s luxury...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 23rd Aug - 8:50pm
    I wish Virgin wouldn't instruct me via a recorded message not to flush my goldfish or ex's jumper down the loo. There are times and...
  • User AvatarStevan Rose 23rd Aug - 8:39pm
    I would suggest that http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-37167700 shows Corbyn strolling by empty and unreserved seats. Beyond the Headlines were selective in their choice of image as I...