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Vote David Ellesmere, Vote Labour!

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Ed Miliband came to Ipswich yesterday.

He was interviewed on Look East.

Ed showed a sure grasp of the key issues facing people in the Town*

These included a low wage economy, a town centre in need of regeneration, and people working on zero hour contracts, as well as the health service and education.

The Labour leader has visibly grown in stature over the last few weeks.

He responded with clarity and modest determination.

It was impressive.

Miliband spoke to local paper, the Star,

..he said the key message he had heard from local people was that the economy had not got better for ordinary workers.

He said: “It may be better if you work in the City of London or you’re one of the highest-paid people in the country, but this idea that the wealth will trickle down is nonsense.

“The people working hard to try to improve their lives are not seeing any improvements, and it is time we changed things to ensure that any recovery is shared by everyone – not just the richest.”

David Ellesmere was present to welcome Labour’s Battle Bus.

David has also risen in – political – stature during the election campaign.

As leader of the Labour Group in Ipswich Borough Council he had headed a team dedicated to making things better for ordinary people.

Labour councillors have  has introduced the Living Wage for all its employees – and contractors.

They have banned the use of ‘workfare’ by the Council.

The Borough has engaged in a programme of building council houses (although one project has been held up by Eric Pickles).

It has invested in land, in supporting schemes to help ordinary people (such as the Credit Union), and a range of community bodies.

More broadly Ipswich Council has backed progressive policies, such as an anti-racist march.

David appeared at the first public meeting of the Suffolk People’s Assembly (SPA), along with Owen Jones, and the Secretary of the Trades Council, Teresa MacKay and other trade unionists.

Campaigning locally for the Living Wage, Ipswich Labour, local community groups, and the SPA, have tried to extend this principle.

On Suffolk County Council, the Labour leader, Sandy Martin – who also works with the SPA – has attempted to get this administration to adopt the Living Wage. The Conservatories have blocked it.

Recently David came along to a SPA/UNITE protest against the sanctions regime for benefit claimants -a  major cause of the rise of Food Banks.

Ipswich Labour, and David Ellesmere, have done a through, careful, job of making things better for ordinary people – just as Ed Miliband intends to do.

They have earned a lot of trust in the constituency.

By contrast Tory candidate Ben Gummer is looking increasingly rattled.

His efforts to claim credit for every thing positive that has happened to the town, up to and including the recent sunny weather (I made that one up – just…), are, people admit, at least pleasanter than his colleagues’ attempts to spread  fear of a Labour doomsday.

Ben Gummer tries to show his liberal side, but has come down hard in favour of the sanctions regime, and other regressive Tory policies.

Many people are tried of free-market politicians who lay ownership of economic upturns (never downturns), while disclaiming government responsibility for the precarious existence a large number of working people, not to mention benefit claimants, have to live.

I have no insight into the voting intentions of the public.

But if Ipswich is anything to go by, the hard-graft of politicians like David and his colleagues, is beginning to pay off.

 * population 133,400 – up to 200, 000 if you include the coterminous villages and small towns.

Ben Gummer, Tory Ipswich, Nudging and Edging.

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Kevin Algar: Ben Gummer’s Top Man.

The ‘Election Battle‘ for Ipswich is hotting up.

Ever so often Ben Gummer, Cabinet Minister for Ipswich, Editor Ipswich Star, Local Government Correspondent Ipswich Star, Mayor of Ipswich,  Shop-Steward (National Union of Private Debt  Managers, Canary Wharf), Producer, Channel Four News, Patron of Lady Lane Shrine, presents the Alternative View on Tendance Coatesy.

“As somebody who knows what it’s like to be denied media time, I’d like to thank Coatesy for the opportunity to ‘get the message’ out.

Your doing a great job chaps – and chappettes! –  even if you didn’t have my ‘privileged’ (dread word!) education in the Trivium and Quadrivium.

I care passionately about my town!

In my term of office I have:

  • Kept working class ‘council houses’ from polluting the beautiful meadows of Ravenswood – thanks Mr Pickles!
  • Constructed and funded scores of New Schools in Ipswich, and passed thousands of A levels and GCSE’s.
  • My betting and pound shop building programme has reduced Ipswich Unemployment by 50%.
  • Backed national ‘sanctioning’ ‘targets’ for so-called ‘claimants’ leading to a fourfold rise in their numbers.
  • With the Help of ATOS and (now) Maximus I have healed the lame and halt at the Shrine of Lady Lane.
  • Brought a halt to the restrictions of employee representation by supporting to an end to interfering union activity.
  • Dredged the Orwell and laid the foundation stone for a new Bridge between Ipswich and Harwich.

As East Anglia’s (and soon the Country’s?) Premier Blogger Kevin says,

“Hats off to Benjy! With you at the helm of Ipswich I’m proud to be standing as a Conservative Candidate in the May local elections!”

In Praise of Ipswich.

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Ipswich: Twinned with   Robespierre’s Home Town, Arras.

I knew something had changed for ever when Reg told me his Christmas dinner was quails.

I had six oysters for my Veillée de Noël.

Perfect.

Absolutely bollocking perfect.

£1.79 from Lidel.

Who eats dry and ‘orrid Turkey, even smeared with cranberry jam?

Curry Wurst is one of the most popular street foods round here.

That and camembert baguette, polish vodka, and Portuguese coffee.

I even got Harissa from a shop round here.

Ipswich is the gourmet capital of England.

Well…

Edward Thompson said the European Union marched on its stomach.

He seemed to have a problem with this,

I don’t.

I live and breathe on it.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

December 26, 2014 at 11:30 am

Labour Representation Committee Backs Kurdish Struggle.

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Kurdish Fighters: Our Kith and Kin. 

Yesterday the Labour Representation Committee AGM voted to back the Kurdish struggle.

Cagdas Canbolat from the Daymer Turkish and Kurdish Community Centre made a moving speech describing the current situation of the Kurds in Northern Syria. He talked of the importance of the heroic struggle of the people of Kobane against Isis (Da’esh). Warning against the manoeuvres of the Turkish state and the support of Qatar and Saudi Arabia (all (implicated in allowing the jihadists to flourish),for he stressed the need to be wary of the actions of the Western powers. But, with the common socialist objectives of his organisation and the British left, our priority must be support the Kurdish people’s fight.

In the afternoon the LRC’s views on international affairs were debated.

There was no full resolution on the Kurdish issue, although comrade John McDonnel (MP) has held a welcome meeting in the House of Commons on the topic.

There as however a general declaration in support of the Kurds’ fight, and for their right to self-determination.

During the discussion the Tendance regretted that the LRC had not had time to adopt the very recent Fire Brigades’ Union resolution ,

The FBU Executive Council is appalled by the ongoing siege of the predominantly Kurdish town of Kobane in northern Syria by ISIS forces.

The Executive Council notes:

  • The ISIS attack on Kobane and resistance of Kurdish and other local forces.
  • The role of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE (all UK/US allies) in building, assisting and encouraging the growth of ISIS.
  • The particular role of the Turkish government in allowing money, arms and fighters across the border to build support for ISIS.
  • The role of Turkey at various times in obstructing the flight of Kurdish and other refugees and in blocking any support for predominantly Kurdish defenders of Kobane, thereby increasing the power and influence of ISIS and likelihood of collapse of opposition to it.

As the union of firefighting humanitarian professionals, we believe it is right to warn of the prospects of a massacre and to demand that governments (including the UK government) act to prevent atrocities. As professionals who have to deal with international humanitarian disasters as well as the effects of terrorism on our own doorstep, we cannot passively fold our arms and do nothing in the face of a likely massacre.

We send our message of solidarity to the workers’ organisations in Turkey, Iran and Iraq, including the Kurdish workers’ organisations. We believe these are the progressive forces that can oppose oppressive governments and reactionary and sectarian forces of all types, and can best guarantee workers’ rights and ensure democratic relations between the peoples of the region.

We support the right of Kurdish people across the Middle East to self-determination, including their right to defend themselves against attack from ISIS.

We oppose the horrific brutality of ISIS and its sectarian and murderous behaviour towards peoples of the region.

We condemn the Turkish government’s comments equating Kurdish fighters (including the defenders of Kobane) with ISIS.

We have no confidence in a US/UK/French bombing campaign against ISIS, based on the bitter experience of such efforts in the last decade and on the appalling role played by the Turkish government and other key western allies in the region.

We demand that:

  • The Turkish government lifts border obstructions to refugees.
  • The Turkish government allows relief efforts, including by opening a relief corridor to the Kurds and other forces defending Kobane.

We call for the TUC to raise these matters urgently, including with the Turkish embassy, the UK government and with trade unions in Europe and elsewhere. We call for international trade union solidarity and support for the defenders of Kobane.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally

Matt Wrack
General Secretary

FBU

Afterwards I interviewed comrade Cagdas Canbolat.

He reiterated the importance of Kobane, the Kurdish defence of diversity in a region where this is threatened, and the role of women in leading their struggle against the genocidal Islamists.

Back in Ipswich that evening – at nearly ten o’clock – I went into a Kurdish run Newsagents/Off Licence on my way home.

Having already in the recent past already discussed the Kurdish fight with the people there I mentioned the debates at the LRC Conference.

Immediately the proprietor grasped his mobile and showed me pictures of him and his wife at last Saturday’s London day of Solidarity with Kobane.

He began talking about the bravery of the women fighters of the YPG – People’s Protection Units.

I asked if he had seen the video of the Kurdish comrades with the Italian Partisan Song, Bella Ciao.

He sang the first words!

I said that what I liked about the Kurds was that they are “normal people”.

By this I meant – and was understood to mean – that they are simply ordinary decent people.

He liked that expression and repeated it.

A phrase I used in the LRC debate was that these are our “kith and kin“.

That is, people who know, people we feel at ease with, not a special ‘heroic’ ‘victim’ group.

They are friends, neighbours – in my case a number of allotment holders, those who come to the Ipswich Trades Council May Day events, and those I have taught English to.

Nothing special – just plain decent people.

We in the labour movement and left do know the Kurdish organisations – they have supported us, they are part of us.

Ordinary or not the Kurds of Northern Syria are called on to do extraordinary acts.

As our flesh and blood they must be supported to the hilt.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 9, 2014 at 11:40 am

Suffolk Libraries Face New Crisis as Disinvestment Fails to Deliver.

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Ideal Happy Suffolk Library User.

In 2012 Suffolk LIbraries were taken away from public ownership (‘divested’) and direct control by elected councillors under a hard-right leadership of Suffolk County Council. They were given to an Industrial and Provident Society

Or as they put it,

In the first arrangement of its type in the UK, and after extensive consultation with the people of Suffolk, on Wednesday 1 August 2012, all of Suffolk’s 44 libraries and the mobile, school and prison library services were put under the direct control of the Suffolk’s Libraries IPS Ltd, an independent company registered as a charity.

Suffolk’s Libraries has a long-term contract with Suffolk County Council to ensure the service is delivered to an agreed specification and to work with local community groups to develop locally-focused services at each library.

The county council remains the statutory library authority, and monitors the performance of the library service through a framework that forms part of the contract.

The board of the IPS is currently appointed (that is, nominated, not elected) but will be elected by members of the IPS in late 2013.

These are the members who elected the Board  (essentially Friends of local libraries) and here is the Board.

As a member of the Ipswich Friends, who are on the list, I would be interested to know how this election took place – certainly it would be hard to recall being consulted, let alone presented with a ballot paper.

It would be possible to go further into  this arrangement, whose transparency has been unfavourably compared to the Kremlin’s under Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev.

Our concern is the future of the libraries.

It would seem that a number of problems have come to a head: Ipswich Library is opening late tomorrow, because a special ‘Staff Meeting’ is taking place.

It is known (I have seen a copy of the, non-public, minutes of the meeting) that part of the Library is to be transferred to a business ‘hub’ of some kind (as if Ipswich needs another one….).

Appropriately commerce will replace part of the Arts section.

In the meantime a large number of books from all over the Central Library are ‘disappearing’ and some books on the shelves are ‘not-recognised’ – about to be withdrawn for sale.

One loyal member of staff say that these volumes have gone to a better, happier, place.

Others, less favourable to management, suggest that the “disappeared” will never  be seen again.

The computer provision, which last year’s annual public report (a rare glimpse into the Provy’s workings) needs upgrading, is in a mess.

Some new terminals are available (though 2 have already broken down) with super, indeed excellent, service, exist (though their censorship filter blocks some left-wing sites).

Some of the old ones still function.

There is a shortage of free computers and great competition to use them – an essential activity for Jobseekers.

But near to them are the dead carcasses of extinct terminals, a sad reminder of former days.

We suspect a funding crisis is in the offing and “profit centres” are seen as the way out.

Note the word “suspect“, not “certain”.

It is said – from the Management – that “nothing has been decided yet” about the libraries’ future.

We have heard that one before: it is no doubt taught in many ‘dealing with a crisis’ master classes for managers.

As Greens Contemplate ‘Confidence and Supply’ Agreement with Conservatives Ipswich Green ‘Hasn’t the heart’ to Oppose Tory MP.

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Mark Ereira-Guyer

Suffolk Green Leader, Mark Ereira-Guyer ‘Hasn’t the heart’ to stand against Ipswich Tory MP.

Latest news on the Green Front,

The resurgent Green party is to target a dozen seats across England, which it believes it could either win or come close to seizing in next May’s general election, as membership rises and confidence grows that it could outpoll the Lib Dems.

……..

As the Greens have gained more media attention, Bennett has thought seriously about post-election possibilities, and what role her party might play in supporting a Tory- or Labour-led government. “I can’t imagine circumstances in which we would prop up a Tory government,” she says. “Our first inclination would be a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement, rather than a coalition, because it means you provide stable government – you don’t get the ministerial cars but you keep your conscience and you don’t have to vote for tuition fees, for example.”

Guardian site.

The Ipswich Star reported on October the 10th,

Ipswich: Green Party candidate “hasn’t the heart” to take on MP Ben Gummer at General Election

Mark Ereira-Guyer, leader of the Green and independent group on Suffolk County Council and an experienced election campaigner, was chosen earlier this year to fight for the Ipswich seat, but has now dropped out.

In a letter to the Ipswich Green Party he said his business and council commitments meant he was not able to devote enough time to fighting the seat and he wanted the party to have time to find another candidate.

….

He added: “Although I find Conservative policies odious and overly focused on free market fundamentalism, crass cost-cutting measures and ecological destitution, I am of the view that the current MP Ben Gummer is dedicated and hardworking.

“I respect his honest endeavours for the town. And, therefore, I can’t drum up sufficient energies to really take him on. I like my politics to work on a human level, and not in a tribalist way.”

“Mr Gummer was flattered to hear Mr Ereira-Guyer’s comments. He said: “I’m sorry he won’t be standing because I have a lot of time for him and I think we would have some good debates on the hustings. I hope he remains on the political scene in Suffolk.”

The Greens are due to select another candidate.

Whether this endorsement of the Ipswich Conservative candidate, or at the very least, glowing tribute, is to be followed in the rest of the country is unclear.

It would certainly smooth the way for a “confidence and supply” agreement if the Greens helped other Tories in marginals.

There are suggestions from greens that Mr Ereira-Guyer’s decision is not unrelated to the failure of the national Green Party to give the sprightly Suffolk leader the recognition he feels is consummate with his talents.

He failed to become the Party’s deputy leader.

Sources close to the Suffolk Labour Party have commented that he certainly has a high opinion of himself.

This is from the Tories’ favourite Green’s own Blog site,

We must all move from being a reckless ego-centric society to an eco-centric one. We need to ensure everyone has enough for a decent life wherever they live in the world. We should perhaps recall the adage: there is no wealth but life. We need to find a way of living where we all find joy and fulfillment in ‘enough’.

As a Councillor I will continually work to encourage and explain the kind of changes required that can meet our – and the rest of biodiversity’s – needs in a way that our current ego-centric system isn’t and simply can’t.

Many will had enough of this after the first sentence!

Ereira-Guyer also cites this,

We need to appreciate that we can and should be winning votes from the right and the left, because we are NOT a party of the left.

Even if we think we are, we should not be using that term, because the Green Party’s prime USP is that we as a society will not approach equality until we recognise that there are limits to growth.

R Lindsay, Journalist & Green Party member

You can keep up to date with Ipswich Green Party on their site – which has yet to register this decision.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 21, 2014 at 10:34 am

The Establishment. And how they get away with it. Owen Jones. A Socialist Review.

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The Establishment. And how they get away with it. Owen Jones. Allen Lane 2014.

Last Tuesday supporters of the Suffolk People’s Assembly and the PCS trade union lobbied Ipswich Conservative MP, Ben Gummer. Part of the TUC campaign “Britain Needs a Pay Rise” we were there to raise concerns from the decline in the real value of public sector pay, the growing cost of living, declining working conditions, to the attacks on those receiving welfare benefits. Gummer, after admitting that he had the privileged background (Cabinet Minister dad, public school and Cambridge in case you ask) understood our worries. He knew “where we were coming from”. But tight budgets and a squeeze on spending had been needed to deal with the legacy of the last government. Now the country was on the mend.

The Honourable Member ended by evoking his recent visit to a local school Academy. Its intake includes many of the less than privileged. Yet these students were rearing to compete on the global market. Equipping them to stand up their counterparts on the East, to give them “opportunity”, was, Ben’s words suggested, a task his government had begun in earnest.

Right in the first chapter of Owen Jones’ The Establishment, one comes across Gummer’s other constituency: the TaxPayers’ Alliance. Jones meets it founder, Matthew Elliot, who founded this “unashamedly populist” campaign for lower taxation. Inspired by the American hard-right Tea Party, its influence began before the 2008 Bankers’ crash. The Alliance now boasts that it got the Tories from saying they wanted to “match Labour’s spending plans to talk about spending cuts”. The ‘shock’ of crashing banks gave them a golden opportunity to go further and further.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance awarded Ipswich MP Ben its monthly  ‘pin up’ status a couple of years ago for his attempt to rename National Insurance a Tax. (1) This is not the only link. Jones signals their campaign to end Trade Union facility time. Mr Gummer – the members of the PCS present at the lobby were well aware – has very publicly pursued this demand locally.

Needless to say the socially and (genuinely) caring liberal Ben, can quickly turn into a ferocious tigress protecting her young when the interests of one group of taxpayers, finance, are at stake. It was not so long ago that he floated the idea of reviving the ‘business vote’, an extra ballot paper for companies (no doubt with an eye on Labour controlled Ipswich Borough Council).

Dig a little and what is the core of the up and coming Conservative’s politics? For Ben Gummer the City of London, which Jones describes as marked by a “reluctance to pay taxes and an acute hostility to any form of government intervention” (Page 241) is the foundation of UK prosperity. Above all he ducks the banks’ responsibility for the economic crisis, and the government’s deficit (critics might begin with the bank bail-out….), and loads it onto the ‘tax and spend’ policies of Blair and Brown.

It is not a long journey from The Establishment to Ipswich. The previous story is an illustration of how the author succeeds in showing “how they get away with it”. Activists on the left will find many similar echoes from their own experiences of contact with professional politicians (not just Conservatives and Liberals), and “movers and shakers” in the country.

Outriders.

As most reviewers, even if they might disagree with many of Jones’ views,  have said, The Establishment is a thoughtful and thorough exploration of the world of “powerful”, who “manage democracy”. This “oligarchy”, a self-selecting elite, as Ferdinand Mount has described it, it is one profoundly changed since the 1980s (The New Few or a Very British Oligarchy. 2012) To Jones it’s “politicians who make laws, media barons who set the terms of debate; business and financiers who run the economy; police forces that enforce a law which is rigged in favour of the powerful.” What ties them together is a belief in their own rightness that they are “worth” their positions.

In their ‘heroic age’, Thatcherites could consider themselves as radicals sweeping away the old system. Now the free-market consensus has taken on a life of its own. It’s an apparatuses, helped by ‘hired hands’ and driven by the undoubted profits of financial institutions and, increasingly, a revenue flow from the state into private owners of public assets.

It is striking that “outriders”, from the Tax-Payers’ Alliance, ‘free-market’ think tanks, still consider themselves to be living in this time when they had to fight off the remnants of the post-War settlement, beat down trade unions, and remove left-wing politics from the national life. The Daily Mail, Jones observes, still thinks it is battling away at a ‘Liberal’ Establishment.  Paul Staines (aka “Guido Fawkes”)  also on the hard right says of the the political class: “I hate the fucking thieving cunts.”

The first chapter of Jones’ book underlines the contrary. The hard-right have succeeded in defining ‘common sense’, from the media, much of the public, to the highest reaches of power. They have “shifted the terms of debate and softened up public opinion” with the willing collaboration of media outlets, the BBC at the forefront, which never loses an opportunity to provide them with a platform. “They have helped shift the goalposts of debate in Britain, making ideas that were once ludicrous, absurd and wacky, become the new common sense. In the terminology of right-wing political thinker, they have shifted the ‘Overton Window’.”(Page 44)

Overton, we learn, was the vice-president of a US right-wing think tank, the grandly titled Mackinac Center for Public Policy. His concern was to ‘shift’ what is reasonable, opening a new Window of opportunity. But for policies to be Policy the outriders, scouting out the way, have to find collaborators willing to work with them.

If The Establishment covers the ideological and economic conditions for the rise of the free-market ‘counter-revolution’ in the 1970s and 1980s it does not stop there. Blair and Brown were happy to go along with what the Conservatives, starting with Thatcher, had created. “The government of both Blair and Brown were instrumental in transforming Thatcherism into a permanent settlement.”(P 61)

Owen Jones is not afraid to confront the Labour Ministers who profited handsomely from this agreement on free-market foundations. Tony Blair, and his immediate followers, are probably the most notorious. But it’s the special merit of Establishment to focus on less well-remembered instances.

Former Secretary of State for Health, Patricia Hewitt ended up as a lobbyist for private health companies. Perhaps even more startling in this particularly area is the case of Paul Corrigan a one-time activist in the Communist Party of Great Britain, and sociology lecturer, who is now deeply involved, a leading figure,  in the NHS privatisation process itself (see Wikipedia). Corrigan is married to Labour Peer,  Hilary Armstrong and is a  Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Pride of place must go to David Blunkett, former Home Secretary and subsequently in charge of the DWP. Jones meets the man himself. Blunkett can never resist the opportunity to re-enact the Monty Python Three Yorkshiremen sketch. After talking of a life existing on “bread and dripping” the former Minster bushes away how he personally profited from the largesse of the notoriously incompetent A4E (amongst his many other well-rewarded private posts, from News International onwards). There is no interrogation of how A4E’s exploitation of state revenue only happened because of his own legislation. The MP proffers only this, “I’m not living a flash lifestyle, but I’m very comfortable.”(Page 76) Though not quite as comfortable as David Miliband, reported by Jones to have made a million in two and a half years after his failed Labour leadership bid in 2010.

This ‘revolving door’, by which former Cabinet Ministers end up being rewarded by companies their legislation has helped, works for politicians of all parties. If the Tories do badly next year, and when the Liberals are drubbed, we will see another crop. Jones remind us that 46 of the top fifty publicly ranked traded firms in the UK had a British parliamentarian as either a director or a shareholder.

The problem is not that politicians are especially venal as such – a pretty hollow claim given the opportunities for far easier money-making in other walks of life. It is that, as Jones says, “Mainstream politicians had been transformed by policies that once belonged to the dreams of the outriders. A mentality of greed had been promoted amongst the business elite, now this mentality had infected the political elite too. Politicians became unapologetic lobbyists for private interests both inside and outside Westminster.”(Page 83)

When one reads this it’s hard not to think of this, possibility, cited in Tomas Picketty’s influential Capital in the Twenty First Century. That some would “privatise all pubic assets. According to the national accounts of various European countries, the proceeds from selling all public buildings, schools, universities, hospitals, police stations, infrastructures, and so will be roughly sufficient to pay off all outstanding public debt. Instead of holding public debt via their financial investments, the wealthiest European households would becomes the direct owners of schools, hospitals, police stations, and so on. Everyone else would then have to pay rent to use these assets and continue to produce the associated public services.”(Page 541 –2 Capital in the Twenty-first Century. 2014).

In many respect we are paying rent to private owners for an ever-growing number of ‘public’ services. What this means is that wealth is transferred from the majority to this minority through the mechanism of taxation and charges for indispensable common goods (health onwards). If Picketty is right about the tendency of modern Capital to favour the transformation of entrepreneurs into the holders of such claims (‘rentiers’) the free-market system may be encouraging its own cannibalism. One could also investigate the way these profiteers are directly shaping a whole range of public social policies, for the institutions they themselves run.

Democratic Revolution.

There are many other themes brought up in The Establishment, covering the media, the increasing harshness of Law and  the Police, and their use to suppress protests, the demonisation of the poor, and an array of illuminating sections on the Oligarchy’s inner courts, the City, and the Tax-dodging Tycoons and corporation. I was impressed by the grasp – not common amongst political writers – of the last decade’s coercive and shambolic changes in the Benefit system and the obstacles and misery these have created for millions of people.

But it is the political alternative to the present system that should provoke the most attention. Is the ‘elite’ at fault for the way it’s recruited? There is one area where this appears blatant: professional politics. Jones, following many others, observes is that MPs are increasingly drawn from a narrow stratum of society, often with no experience of anything other than politics, and even fewer from working class backgrounds. That this is an international phenomenon can be seen in an article in Le Monde yesterday (16.10.14). It notes that only 2,6% of French MPs come from manual or ordinary clerical occupations. But can this be changed by the kind of “equality of opportunity” that the free-market’s supporters promote?

But, as he points out, we should start by considering the corporate influence on law, from the UK to the European Union. Jones is not clear on how the EU should be approached. If it inspires unbridled hatred form one section of the Establishment, in the area of Britain’s sovereignty, another endorses it, precisely because it is remote from any democratic control. He concludes, not very confidently, that, “It is the Establishment that really reigns supreme.”(Page 294).

This sounds as if he would, or is edging towards abstention on any conflict – that is the Referendum – on UK membership. The loudest yelps for liberty come from those who wish to follow the worst aspects of US policy and politics, including its boss class of slave-drivers.  What other vehicle for ‘internationalist ‘ ambitions could be offered, other that is than a refounded and transformed Social European Union, remains to be seen.

For a democratic revolution we need democrats. The grip of the free-market outriders has, Jones, considers, to be challenged by bringing the “fragments” of opposition together. One thing that implies is that more solidly organised left-wing think tanks should be formed, and backing existing ones such as the New Economic Foundation and Class. More fundamentally The Establishment advocates public ownership. But perhaps we need the kind of public owners who can run them democratically. That is, the creation of a counterpart to the ideal of dedicated public servants of the past, educated with a feeling for the common good – and kept under control by open public mechanisms. “service users and workers”.

There are plenty of other policies to develop. Probably equally ambitious is the demand that along with clamping down on tax Avoidance we should “drive the power of Big Money from politics” (Page 311).

Will these and other proposals shift the ‘Overton Window’ “away from the Establishment” and “open up been more radical possibilities”? Change Owen concludes is “not won through the goodwill and generosity of those above, but though the struggle and sacrifice of those below.” In Le Monde Diplomatique (October 2014) Jones has written of the weakness of Ed Miliband’s alternative to the Right, and even UKIP. The French Socialist government and President Hollande, for all their initial rhetoric about challenging ‘finance’ never tried these policies, and is now drifting  ever rightwards. Will those prepared to go out on the streets to act now help turn the tide to the left, or at least stem the headlong plunge to the right? Are the embers of socialism about to be relit? 

The struggle of those people in Ipswich who lobbied Ben Gummer and all those who will be at Saturday’s TUC demonstration indicates some who are doing their best to do so……

Photo: Ben Gummer was photographed outside his office last week, when supporters of Suffolk Peoples Assembly and the Trades Council lobbied for the "Britain needs a Pay Rise" demonstration.</p>
<p>Ben's smile seemed a little forced, possibly because the latest polls show Labour's David Ellesemere is 7% ahead in polls for the Ipswich seat, with around 38% to Gummer's 31%.   </p>
<p>UKIP are currently on 19% and the Lib Dems 6%.</p>
<p>(photo by Tony Dooley)

Lobby of Gummer.

(1) Wikipedia. “Gummer first proposed annual tax statements to UK taxpayers, due for introduction in 2014. These will show shares of government spending in proportion to the amount of tax the taxpayer paid in the year. it was opposed by the Labour Party. Gummer’s proposal was favorably received by the press. He became The Suns Westminster “hero of the week” It was included in the 2012 Budget with George Osborne calling it “an excellent idea”. The TaxPayers’ Alliance subsequently honoured Gummer as their ‘Pin-Up of the Month‘. It also got the support of the Prime Minister.