Labour is better

John CoxMany of my posts are critical of Labour – for having similar or even identical policies to the Tories. Despite these criticisms, I still believe a Labour government would be infinitely preferable to a continuation of Tory rule.

For the record, here are some Labour policies that are good reasons for voting Labour:

Repealing the Bedroom Tax, Imposing new rent controls, Raising the minimum wage (preferably to at least the “living” wage), Improved child care, Extra apprenticeships, Ending NomDom tax evasion, Scrapping the House of Lords, Ending the badger cull, Extending marine protection zones – and many more.




Labour (and Conservatives) ignore major conference on disarmament (28th April) In a landmark foreign policy speech at Chatham House, Labour leader Ed Miliband pledged commitment to multilateralism and global institutions (good). But he reiterated Labour’s support for Britain retaining nuclear weapons and said nothing whatsoever about multilateral disarmament or a global ban on nuclear weapons.

The media news is all about his criticism of the Conservatives for lack of post-conflict planning following the 2011 bombing campaign in Libya and the ensuing migrant crisis – a war that Labour backed. But if they are in favour of multilateralism and international institution-building, neither party should have got Britain involved in disastrous and bloody misadventures: from Afghanistan to Iraq to Libya.

The one concrete message in Ed’s speech is that Labour will spend up to £100bn to ensure Britain is a nuclear-armed state for the next 30-40 years – despite a majority of Labour’s candidates voicing their opposition.

Although he claims to be ‘a disarmer’, Ed’s multilateralism is confined to seeking allies to achieve military solutions to deal with ISIS and the crisis in Ukraine. Ed offered nothing in the way of multilateral commitments on disarmament – a hypocritical and muddled stance, big on admirable rhetoric and light on substance.

Yet, world leaders are meeting at the UN for the largest global conference on nuclear disarmament for the past 5 years – and this was not even mentioned.

All their talk is about being tough on defence. If Ed Miliband really wants to show he’s tough, he should commit to scrapping Trident and kickstarting real progress on global nuclear disarmament.’

Demonstration at the Senedd – “No to Opencast at Varteg”

Campaigners from Torfaen took part today in a demonstration on the steps of the National Assembly Senedd buildingOpen castThe demonstration was in support of a CROSS PARTY MOTION in the National Assembly, opened by our AM Lynne Neagle and was previewed by sympathetic articles and letters in the Western Mail and The Guardian. I read out a message from Lynne Neagle to the demonstration.

The motion was co-sponsored by Bethan Jenkins Plaid Cymru, Lynne Neagle Labour, William Graham Con. William Powell Lib Dem and carried by 30 votes to zero votes against but with 16 abstensions. You can read the full transcript of the debate or watch the video here (from about 2.20 pm that day) – see of Proceedings#211742

The motion read: The National Assembly for Wales calls upon the Welsh Government to:

a. Instigate a moratorium on opencast mining across Wales, in order to ascertain whether planning law and current guidance provides sufficient protection for communities affected by opencast mining;

b. Respond to the Research into the Failure to Restore Opencast Coal Sites in South Wales, stating specifically how it might address concerns about the workability of MTAN2 and the 500m buffer zone;

c. Support affected Local Authorities to make legal challenges where required, when pursing restoration.

Them and Torfaen

George Osbourne proposes to raise the inheritance tax threshold to £1 million (for couples) – clearly believing this to be a big vote-winner. So I thought I should check how many people in Torfaen might benefit.

A quick search of estate agent websites revealed that our average house price is around £150,000 and barely any sell above £800,000. So, in reality, fewer than a dozen Torfaen electors might benefit.

In trumpeting this as great news, George Osbourne seems genuinely unaware of the huge divide between the haves and have-nots in Britain. Raising the inheritance tax threshhold to £1 million may buy votes in London and the shires – but this will not benefit anyone in Torfaen.

There’s a similar divide with respect to incomes. Average income in Torfaen is half that of London and the South East and an even smaller proportion of the highest earners in London. So the Green Party pledge to raise the top rate of income tax to 60p (from 45p) will ‘hurt’ some in London but hardly affect us.

George Osbourne’s policies are to keep the rich rich (100 FTSE 100 chief executives receive ~£4.3 million/year and they won’t be happy with a 60p/£ higher rate tax – this would ‘lose’ them over £600,00/year). But I doubt that anyone in Torfaen is paying the higher rate of tax bracket (OK, there may be – but very few).

Tax avoidance costs the UK £120 billion a year – by collecting all this we could transform our public services. So I am (and the SLP is) committed to closing 100% of tax avoidance loopholes and instituting a simpler tax band structure:.

  • Income under £15,000 per year                      No tax payable
  • Income between £15,000 – £30,000                20 per cent
  • Income between £30,000 – £55,000                30 per cent
  • Income between £55,000 – £80,000                40 per cent
  • 5 Income between £80,000 – £100,000          50 percent
  • 6 Income between £100,000 – £200,000        60 percent
  • Income between £200,000 – £300,000           70 per cent
  • Income over £300,000                                          90 percent

In 2014 Britain’s banks recorded over £20 billion of profit – having been bailed out a few years earlier with public money when their incompetance caused them to make huge losses. By taking these banks into public ownership we could invest that money for the good of society.

There really is no problem ‘balancing the books’ – unless (like George Osbourne) you rule out all measures that take money from the rich.

Time for Britain to move on from nuclear weapons

This is from The Observer 12th April 2015

Pinning our security on a nuclear deterrent encourages others to do the same

Anti-Trident  protesters outside Faslane submarine base.

 Trident Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Observer 12th April 2015

The election campaign to date suggests that decommissioning Trident nuclear weapons is a dangerous, minority demand led by the SNP, the Greens and Plaid Cymru. Yet poll after poll reveals that it is in fact a majority popular demand throughout the UK. One poll recently revealed that 81% of 500 general election candidates are opposed to renewal.

There are increasingly obvious reasons why we think it’s time to move on from Trident. Pinning our security on a nuclear deterrent encourages others to do the same. The UK should become the first permanent member of the UN Security Council to give up all its nuclear weapons, transforming the nuclear club from within.

Instead of protecting us, hosting nuclear weapons makes us a target for the disaffected. And any accident would lead to a humanitarian disaster. Having nuclear weapons diverts resources and attention from tackling our most urgent security problems, including climate and environmental destruction.

Finally, continuing to invest in nuclear weapons is actively depleting military and other effective defences we might need in the 21st century. We should invest military spending on conflict prevention. By moving on from Trident, we can more effectively serve the needs and the potential of our country and a changing world. ; Helena Kennedy QCYoung Fathers, Mercury prizewinners; Prof Peter Higgs, 2014 Nobel prize for physics; Vivienne Westwood, designer and activist; Frankie Boyle, comedian; Neal Lawson, Compass; Gabrielle Rifkind, Oxford Research Group; Konnie Huq, presenter; Massive AttackSir Michael Atiyah, ex-president of the Royal Society; Marina Cantacuzino, founder of The Forgiveness Project; Jonathon Porritt, Forum for the Future; Robin McAlpine, director, Common Weal; Kamila Shamsie, writer; Lindsey Coulson, actress

Wylfa Newydd

UntitledToday is full of news that an Abergavenny-based “independent” think tank says that a new nuclear power station on Anglesey will be great for Wales.

I doubt it.

I have commented about nuclear issues several times already but it’s opportune to do so again. One very relevant post is Hinkley Point and Fukushima (21March) in which I note that the company planning to build the new station was slated by a Japanese parliamentary investigation for having cut corners on safety.

The reason Hitachi is so desperate to build here because, following the Fukushima disaster, it can no longer do so in Japan.

A second relevant post is Radioactive Waste (posted on 24 March). In it I drew attention to the fact that the UK government has changed the regulations for dumping radioactive waste. Having failed to persuade experts and the Cumbrian County Council that dumping radioactive waste is safe – anywhere – the government (without debate) has changed the rules to avoid public scrutiny.

Jill Gough’s comment on this post is worth reading.

All the instant experts have been at it today, declaiming that Wylfa Newydd will bring jobs and prosperity. But none that I have heard have compared this with generating electricity from renewables – such as the free-standing tidal turbines I advocated on 18 March in Barrage or Lagoon?

A similar level investment in renewable energy would generate at least as many jobs without the risk of a Fukushima, Chernobyl or Three Mile Island hanging over future generations. This is a deplorable venture into the unknown and future generations will curse us if allowed to proceed. fukushimachildbigger

The Whitehall conspiracy to save Trident renewal

Whitehall is really worried at the possibility of the Green/SNP/Plaid Cymru alliance influencing the next government and halting the renewal of Trident.

Moreover, with over 70% of Labour’s candidates already pledged to oppose Trident renewal, they realise this is their weakest link in maintaining status quo. Sturgeon

Following the 7-way leaders’ debate and the success of the SNP, it was to be expected that Nicola Sturgeon would be a target.

The ‘leaked memo of a conversation, denied both by the French Ambassador and Scotland’s first Minister, has all the hallmarks of a 21st Century Zinoviev letter.

This is lucidly outlined in Craig Murray’s blog today. He points out that the Civil Service has dispension to treat Scotland’s government as an enemy of the British state – and therefore fair game for dirty tricks (my words, not his).

It’s a comprehensive warning of what to expect in the next few weeks.

Farage and the HIV lie

I’m still reeling from the audacity of Nigel Farage in telling outright lies to camera – and the stupidity of his many followers who believe anything he says.

On Facebook today I challenged one of them to produce the evidence for his astonishing claim, made before a 7 million TV audience, that 60% of HIV patients were foreigners coming here for health tourism. As both Leanne and Nicola said (not their exact words), even if true these patients would still be human beings in need of help.

But as usual, Farage was ‘economical with the truth’ and his Facebook followers have not come back with any evidence. In reality, as shown by this study (click on the word “study” highlighted in red), the actual figures are way way different.

There are several other articles and studies researching the same issues and coming to the same conclusions. I’ve put this into my election blog (1) because I know how to and (2) because this enables me to insert the message on to any Facebook discussion where his acolytes are prattling his nonsense. I plan to do so whenever I see something similar.