Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sanctions and workfare


Ghost Whistler asks :

If elected what will you do to combat the toxic regime of sanctions and workfare at the DWP? For example, will you meet with local staff and call for changes (assuming they are among those punishing people in this way)?
My reply:

I hate sanctions and workfare. The punitive approach to out of work benefits taken by the Tories and LDs is irrational and deeply unpleasant, given that the basic problem is a market failure - namely, the inability of the system to provide jobs.

It is deeply worrying that these politicians want to punish people for having no jobs when the system they support is failing to supply work at a time when there is so much work, good work that would help people and planet, left undone.

That is why I came up with the Green Wage Subsidy idea. This is a positive, fully voluntary scheme that will create good constructive and useful jobs for people. If elected I will do all that I can to get the DWP to allow a GWS pilot run in North Somerset.

Sadly, the reality of the situation is that the result in Weston constituency is a foregone conclusion: Con hold. Ukip will somewhat reduce the total size of the John Penrose's vote, but the fact is that none of the non-Tory candidates stand a chance of replacing him. The LibDems were the challengers in past elections, but they are now a shadow of their former selves, thanks to their flirtation with the Conservatives. The vote in Weston is a glorified opinion poll, and all non-Tory votes are wasted in the sense that they have no representation in Parliament. This is the ugly truth of First Past the Post. Of course, all the other candidates will contradict me, the three also-rans will assert that against all reality, they are able to win, and John Penrose will deny that he is a dead cert so as not to look complacent, but the electoral reality is as I have written.

If I come second, pundits will ask "what happened there?" And I will be able to say that the people of Weston voted Green because the Green candidate put forward a positive solution to the problem of unemployment, and also spoke out against corruption.


On Taxing "Carried Interest" of Private Equity Fund Managers

A constituent asks me as PPC what I think of the 38 degree campaign to apply tax to the earnings of Private Equity Fund Managers. My reply:


Dear xxx

Many thanks to drawing my attention to this issue. You are the second to have done so, and I am fully in agreement with you on this.

It is scandalous that this handful of highly paid Private Equity Fund Managers should engineer things so as to deprive the Exchequer and the nation of up to £700 million pa in tax revenues foregone.

That HMRC should have colluded in creating a sweetheart deal to enable them to avoid taxation on their carried interest, a proportion of their funds profits, is a tribute to the effectiveness of the lobbying and political donation system that allows private equity fund managers to consititute one sixth of the donors to the Conservative Party, and the second largest donor to Labour's "Progress" faction.

I would argue that the lobbying and political donor regime that prevails in Westminster is a form of corruption, wherein the beneficiary that uses office (or potential office) for gain is not an individual in this case, but a political party.

Democracy means that politicians and parties are given power by the people in order to serve the interests of the people and the people alone. Political donations and lobbying corrupt this status, and causes politicians to seek to serve the interests of the rich individuals and companies with whom they are doing deals.

I note with unease that Private Equity Funds now hold some 5% of UK companies, particularly water, mental health and social service providers. I note that mental health services are currently underfunded, so that the PE funds stand to gain from any top-up that future Governments may direct towards mental health services.

I am glad to note that the US, Sweden, Netherlands and France have all made moves to treat carried equity as normal income, though all have failed up to now - a tribute to the power and influence of these fund managers. That they can cling so doggedly to their inflated incomes, despite the fact that they are earning up to £15million a year suggests very strongly that there is a process of addiction at work here - that a person in these ranks of the financial market is as dependent on ever increasing income as a heroin addict is dependent on his or her daily injection of heroin.

As to the solution to this anomaly, I fully endorse your proposed amdnedment to the Finance Bill 2015, and if elected, I certainly will actively back that amendment.

Sadly, the reality of the situation is that the result in Weston constituency is a foregone conclusion: Con hold. Ukip will somewhat reduce the total size of the John Penrose's vote, but the fact is that none of the non-Tory candidates stand a chance of replacing him.  The LibDems were the challengers in past elections, but they are now a shadow of their former selves, thanks to their flirtation with the Conservatives. The vote in Weston is a glorified opinion poll, and all non-Tory votes are wasted in the sense that they have no representation in Parliament. This is the ugly truth of First Past the Post. Of course, all the other candidates will contradict me, the three also-rans will assert that against all reality, they are able to win, and John Penrose will deny that he is a dead cert so as not to look complacent, but the electoral reality is as I have written.

Therefore the important answer to your email is the one from John Penrose, and I would be grateful to have sight of the arguments he puts forward to defend the status quo.

Thank you again for getting in touch.

Richard Lawson
Green PPC for Weston super Mare constituency

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Is Westminster Corrupt?


Yes.

Here is the evidence:

The word “corruption” evolved from an old expression of rottenness, as of rotting fruit or flesh. It has extended its meaning to a lack of ethics, and has acquired a more specific meaning of the abuse of political power for personal gain, in the sense of "bribery and corruption".

"Westminster" covers both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and the Civil Service, the whole place right through to the Remembrancer, the representative of the City of London who can whisper in the Speaker's ear.

At the outset we should remember that the will of the people is the sovereign power in Britain, and MPs and Lords are given office in order to serve the best interests of the people. That is their job. It should occupy all of their working hours. They should be adequately rewarded for the hard work that they do, but they should not seek to gain any other money by any other means, except outside of their working hours, when everything that should be done to help their constituents has been done.

So - is Westminster - the seat of power of the British state - pervasively corrupt? Is there an unusual lack of integrity, of ethical behaviour expected of responsible servants of the people?

This piece presents evidence from known corruption scandals, ongoing lobbying, political donations, directorships – and last but not least, the scandal of child sex abuse by VIPs, and it concludes that Westminster is indeed corrupt.

Looking at the history of the last quarter century, we find 15 instances where actions that may reasonably be characterised as being rotten practices, in the sense of being inconsistent with sound ethical standards, have been revealed. This averages at about one revelation every 18 months. Here they are:


  1. 1994 Cash for Questions: Lobbyist Ian Greer gave Tory MPs Neil Hamilton and Tim Smith money. They asked questions on behalf of Mohammed Al-Fayed. Fayed's employees confirmed payments had been made, but Hamilton and Smith were cleared by the Downey report.In July of the same year, a 'sting' by The Sunday Times reported that Conservative MPs Graham Riddick and David Treddinick had accepted £1,000 cheques for agreeing to table a parliamentary question.
  2. 1997 Bernie Ecclestone gave Labour £1m, and in a possibly coincidental action Labour exempted motor racing from a ban on tobacco advertising.
  3. 1998 Cash for Access/"Lobbygate" ; Derek Draper, a lobbyist, was caught by Greg Palast, an Observer journalist, boasting how he could provide access to Labour ministers and create tax breaks for his clients.
  4. 2006 Jowellgate: Tessa Jowell's husband gave testimony for Sylvio Berlusconi, and possibly coincidentally indirectly received £350,000 from him.
  5. 2006 Cash for Honours : In a workaround to evade the rules that capped large political donations, loans were made totalling £14m to Labour and £16m to Conservatives. These lenders found themselves, possibly coincidentally, in receipt of peerages. The CPS found no evidence that a prior deal had been done.

    2015: A statistical survey finds that the connection between donations and nomination for a peerage is highly unlikely to be due to chance.
  6. 2007 Peter Watt knew about, but did not report, the fact that Labour received £630,000 from one individual through third parties, a workaround for the rule that stopped one individual from making large payments. The CPS decided that there was not enough evidence to prosecute.
  7. 2008: Michael Brown gave the LibDems a £2.4m donation, despite the fact that they had been warned about him. Brown is a convicted fraudster (to the tune of £36m), having jumped bail after being charged.The Electoral Commission exonerated the LibDems of any wrongdoing, and absolved them from having to give any of their funds to the people Michael Brown had defrauded.
  8. 2009 Cash for Influence scandal. Four Labour peers offered to amend legislation for bribes of up to £120,000 in a Sunday Times sting. The House of Lords suspended two for the peers for 6 months.
  9. 2009 MP expenses scandal. About 68 (10% of the total) MPs were found to have committed some kind of financial irregularity in their expenses claims. 4 MPs were jailed, three peers were suspended.
  10. 2010 Cash for Influence: another sting by Dispatches/Sunday Times team, who interviewed 9 MPs (1 Con, 8 Lab) who accepted offers of cash for influencing policy.
  11. 2011 Liam Fox allowed his relationship with Adam Werrity to blur the distinction between official and private life.
  12. 2012 Cash for Access scandal: Sarah Southern (lobbyist and Cameron aide) introduced Sunday Times journalists to Peter Cruddas, Conservative Party co-treasurer. He claimed "£200,000 to £250,000 is Premier League - things will open up for you - you can ask him [David Cameron, the PM] practically any question you want." Cruddas subsequently won a case of defamation and malicious falsehood against The Sunday Times.
  13. 2012 Jeremy Hunt was prepared to adjudicate Murdoch's bid for BSkyB, but had been having inappropriately close communication with Murdoch and his team.
  14. 2015 Malcolm Rifkind ex-Foreign Secretary, was caught in a sting by Ch4 journalists posing as a Chinese business seeking to buy influence in Government. He was willing to arrange this at a rate of £5-8,000 per half day.
  15. 2015 Jack Straw was caught in the same sting as Rifkind. Straw said he operated "under the radar". He had used his influence to change EU rules on behalf of a firm which paid him £60,000 a year. He also earned £12,500 pa for work carried out for the corrupt and repressive regime in Kazakhstan.

All of the above is evidence, in a range of clarity, that suggests that a culture of corruption, dodgy dealing, sleaze and amorality prevails in the Palace of Westminster.

Bear in mind that these are events which came to the light of day. It is reasonable to suppose that not every shady deal is discovered.

What is striking is that MPs do not learn from their mistakes, in that there are at least 6 stings in the list, but MPs continue to be caught out by undercover journalists. As Adam Ramsey, a green commentator said, “Like a toddler caught with their hand in the cookie jar, they just cannot see what the issue is”. This suggests that what we are recording here is merely the tip of the iceberg.

The second noteworthy point is that on six occasions, the judiciary and other regulating authorities exonerated the perpetrators, and in one case, even awarded them damages.

Over and above these 15 cases of overt corruption, there are four other modes in which the democratic process is overridden in Westminster: Lobbying, political donations, directorships and the protection of VIP child abusers.


Lobbying


We need to remind ourselves that in a democracy, the role of Parliament is supposed to be to represent the will and interests of the ordinary people of Britain, who are the ultimate source of political power and authority. If MPs and Peers are using their office to make deals that benefit themselves personally. This is a perversion of democracy. It is corrupt in the second, more specific sense of the word.

There is a culture of lobbying in Westminster where MPs and peers are entertained and fed at great expense by corporate lobbyists. They are listening not to the concerns of their constituents, but to the blandishments of highly paid professional persuaders working on behalf of big corporations, whose only duty is to maximise the profits of their shareholders.

There is also a “revolving door” that allows MPs and Ministers to take jobs with corporations, and corporations to embed their employees in Government offices. The nuclear industry is especially involved in this process.

The Coalition Government has produced the Lobbying Act which enshrines the idea of self-regulation of lobbyists This shows only that they have learned absolutely nothing from the MP expenses scandal, where self-regulation failed so catastrophically.

The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency rejects the Lobbying Act as a sham. They call for

A genuine lobbying register, as adopted by the US, Canada and other countries, would cover the whole of the lobbying industry and allow us to scrutinise:


• who is lobbying whom


• what they are seeking to influence


• and how much they are spending trying to do it.

Here is the draft Lobbying Transparency Bill

Support for this Bill must be a priority in the campaign to make Parliament fit for its original purpose of serving democracy.


Political donations


On top of lobbying, there is the matter of donations to political parties. In an effort to control the size of these donations, those over £5000 to a national political party, or £2000 to a local party, must be declared. We have seen how party fund raisers have repeatedly tried to circumvent this legislation by turning to loans.

The major parties are in hock to major donors, receiving millions from private individuals, corporations and in the case of the Labour party, from the unions.

It is naive to accept the protestations from donors and parties that there is no connection between donation and policy. They would say that, wouldn't they?

Clearly, in a democracy, it should be illegal for a party to take money in donations above a very strict limit, and the law should be applied with rigour. In that political parties are a necessary part of the democratic process, they should be modestly and reasonably out of taxation,

Several reviews and reports have been issued in an attempt to bring some kind of order to party funding.

Hayden Phillips' report proposed a £50K cap on donations, and an increase of party funding from the state.

The 2011 Committee on Standards in Public Life proposed a cap of £10K/donor/party/year, with more than that from Trades Unions if they accept an opt-in, a 15% reduction on allowable campaign spending, and public funding of £3 per Westminster vote, and £1.50 for other elections. They also suggested income tax relief for parties.

Therefore reform is on the way, but moving with glacial slowness, held up by an emotional reaction from tabloid newspaper editors. The idea that parties should be funded by the taxpayer calls forth derision, based on their disgust at the behaviour of MPs. What these tabloids need to grasp is that the corrupt behaviour of MPs is a result of the very system of private payments that they, the tabloids, are defending.

Directorships


Here is a list of 10 Coalition Cabinet Ministers who have commercial interests in healthcare corporations. This is was during the time that the NHS is obliged to put its services out to private tender.

This is unacceptable. Not only is it wrong that Ministers should take on directorships that will take their attention away from governing the country, but also it is wrong that they should have an interest in companies who stand to benefit from their political decisions. In that these directorships and consultancies are a source of income, the MPs are using their office for personal gain.

We have found extensive evidence from 15 historic financial scandals, and from the way that Westminster is run through lobbying, political donations and directorships, that the system is corrupt, and that democracy is not well served.

But there is more.


Sexual Corruption


If corruption is the abuse of office for personal gain, then it is clear that some office holders use their position to satisfy their sexual urges. There are no less than 60 (sixty) instances where investigations of sexual abuse of children were blocked as soon as they began to get close to VIPs. 23 Politicians have questions to answer. 6 civil servants are under suspicion or are known beyond doubt to have abused children.

Given this evidence, it is reasonable to believe that the Establishment has a great deal to hide in the matter of child abuse by its own members. It does not want its crimes to be discovered.

David Cameron claimed that he would leave “no stone unturned” in his search for answers to child abuse, yet the Home Office made not one, but two wrong choices of a chair for the Inquiry into Child abuse. The choices were said in the press to be faulty because they were Establishment figures, but the central criticism brought by the survivors was that the two figures chosen to lead the Inquiry were close to two VIPs suspected of being complicit in abuse.

The first choice,Butler-Sloss, was sister to Robert Michael Havers. The second choice, Fiona Woolf, was friends with Sir Leon Brittan.

It is vital that the Establishment figures involved in child abuse must be brought to justice. Quite apart from the pain caused, and the fact that murder is implicated in some cases. to have abusers at the heart of Government is not acceptable. First, VIPs who take part in child sex lay themselves open to blackmail. Second, VIP child sexual abuse creates a criminal underworld at the heart of the State. This works against democratic values, because if decision makers are hiding secrets in one area, this will work against transparency in other areas.

Two simple policy changes are needed to discover who is trying to protect child abusers in high places. First, retired police officers need to be released from their obligations under the Official Secrets Act, so that they can tell investigating officers what they know. Second, the direction of investigations needs to be directed upwards, as in "Who ordered you to stop this investigation? Who was your superior?" These policy changes are developed here.

A Plague on All Your Houses?


A clear pattern is emerging. The common view that sceptics take of politicians, "They're all in it for themselves", is not that far off the truth. There are some decent MPs, and we should not dismiss the whole Parliamentary system by thinking that it is 100% corrupt. Parliament does not need to be destroyed and replaced by some unspecified other thing, it needs to be reformed.

Labour, Tories and LibDems all have a poor record when it comes to the kind of corruption we are taking about here. Ukip are not in a position to claim that they are clean.

The Green Party is relatively untarnished by the corruption in Westminster, if only because it has had no presence in Westminster, apart from Caroline Lucas, who has a reputation for integrity. Green MEPs, London Assembly members, and councillors have acquitted themselves well, although one early councillor was forced to resign on child pornography charges.

The Green Party is the only major party that gets the majority of its funding from its membership, though even they have received some large donations from rich individuals - £55K from the Goldsmith brothers, and £300K from the personal account of Vivienne Westwood. Regrettably, the Vivienne Westwood group has a legal tax avoidance arrangement in Luxembourg that has saved them £500K. Vivienne Westwood Limited paid £780,228 of taxes in 2013 and £1,250,858 of taxes in 2012.

In view of this, the Green Party is not in a position to take the moral high ground, but rather to work with honest politicians of every party to bring about policy changes that will put paid to the endemic corruption that infects Westminster.

The best way forward might well be to declare an amnesty. a six month period during which people can come forward and confess any corrupt acts that they may have committed. They should then make reparations proportionate and appropriate to their actions


Policy Changes


Here is a list of policy changes that need to be made regarding MP expenses, rules concerning probity, contact with corporations, and political donations.



  1. Legal penalties including dismissal from office for MPs and peers who make fraudulent expenses claims, or who tout for or receive money for questions or for access.
  2. Enactment of the Lobbying Transparency Bill
  3. Reform of political donations along the lines suggested by the Committee on Standards in Public Life.
  4. MPs and peers are to either have an outright ban, or to be severely curtailed, on the number of hours that they can work outside of their Parliamentary duties.
  5. Release police witnesses to child sexual abuse from the constraints of the Official Secrets Act.
  6. Encourage police investigating sexual abuse by VIPs to ask witnesses which superior officers ordered investigations to be stopped, and follow this line of questioning up the chain of command.


These issues must be brought to centre stage in this 2015 General Election campaign.


Richard Lawson

Green Party Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Weston super Mare Constituency

Friday, March 20, 2015

Ukip - 7 fraudsters, one forger, one kidnapper

This week Ukip MEP Janice Atkinson is in the news for alleged fraud, trying to get a restaurant to issue a false invoice so that she could claim more in expenses.

Last year I did a post on UKIP's record in office, their sums, and other mishaps. I confess that that old post has not kept up. I found it a bit difficult to keep up, tbh, because their errors and misdemeanors come thick and fast. they are the party that just keeps on giving. 

However, Janet has made me update the headliners, the real biggies.

So here they are : 4 Fraudsters, 1 forger, 1 kidnapper, 1 MEP uncomfortably cosy with police
UKIP was embarrassed by the jailing of two of its former MEPs.


In 2007, Ashley Mote, who represented South-east England, was jailed on 21 counts of benefit fraud, totalling £65,000.


In 2009, Tom Wise, former MEP for East of England, was jailed for two years after falsely claiming thousands in expenses.
2011 Derek Clark, Ukip MEP was investigated by OLAF, the EU anti-fraud office, and forced to repay £31,800 for money he had claimed for UKIP work.
2014, Peter Lagoda UKIP Councillor in Peterborough, defrauded the benefits system of £25,000 over 2 years. He is due to be sentenced on 28 March 2014.

2015, Janice Atkinson, see above.
Graham Booth, (d 2011)  former Ukip MEP, was forced by OLAF to repay £5,555 in overclaimed expenses, again salaries paid to people who should have been doing EU Parliament work but who were in fact working for UKIP.


In 2010 MEP Nikki Sinclaire lost the UKIP whip because she had refused to join the EFD (Europe of Freedom and Democracy, the European Parliamentary group with whom UKIP sits) on the grounds that it had "extreme views".

She was due to be charged with money laundering and misconduct in public office on September 17th 2014 at Birmingham Magistrate's Court. No record has been found of the result of this hearing.


Forger
Hugh Mennie, a UKIP electoral candidate forged three out of eight signatures on his nomination form[6]. He was found guilty, fined, and banned from politics for 5 years.

Kidnapper
Mujeeb Bhutto, UKIP’s Commonwealth spokesman left the party (reportedly to rejoin the Tories) when Nigel Farrage discovered that he had form as leader of a kidnap for ransom gang in Pakistan[7].

Snouts in Trough
Trevor Coleman Ukip MEP admitted that he only goes to Brussels to claim his expenses and allowances.

Nigel Farage boasted to journalists that he had taken £2million in expenses from the EuroParliament.


See also here

Sunday, March 15, 2015

If you agree with these 14 points, you should vote Green

"Vote for what you believe in" is good advice.

It is after all what democracy is all about; expressing the will of the people.

So if you agree with these 14 points you should seriously consider voting Green on May 7th :


Generally:

  1. People need a healthy living environment in order to be healthy and happy
  2. If we continue to take more than our environment can supply, or put out wastes faster than the environment can deal with them, then first our environment, and then we ourselves, will become unhealthy.and unhappy
  3. We must therefore change from the present economy to a economy that is sustainable
  4. In doing so, we will create enough jobs for everyone
  5. We will also create a more equal society, which will also be a happier and healthier society
  6. It makes financial sense to avoid a major ecological crisis, so Money must serve people and planet, not the other way round
  7. There is much corruption in Westminster that must be cleaned out

Specifically:
  1. We must create sustainable jobs
  2. The NHS must stay public
  3. A Living Wage is fair
  4. Railways must be renationalised, buses supported
  5. Tuition fees must go
  6. Nuclear weapons  must go
  7. Investment makes better sense than Austerity 

Corruption must be an issue in 2015 General Election

Corruption is like rot in an ill-kept apple. It spreads. Therefore if corruption appears or is growing in a State it must be eliminated sooner rather than later.

Is the British State corrupt? Yes. The evidence? We have had 17 incidents of corruption over the past quarter century. One every 18months.  Of which the MP expenses scandal was only one.

On top of this, there is the cultural normality of corporate hospitality, lobbying, directorships, political donations, and last but not least, the hiding of child abuse by VIPs. 

All six of these factors work against the grain of democracy. If we are to have a real, healthy democracy, we need to incise this abscess and let the pus out.

Incision of abscesses is not difficult. It can be a bit painful, but the short, sharp pain of incision can avoid a much longer, deeper pain that can even threaten life.

So in this general election, we all need to demand the necessary reforms needed to get rid of the corruption that exists under the smooth pink skin of the Westminster Establishment.

Let us ask our parliamentary candidates how they intend to get rid of the corruption that is endemic in the Palace of Westminster.
And let us also, after the election, hold them to their promises.

In 5 days I will post a full review evidencing the corruption that runs throughout Wesminster like the veins in blue cheese.