Bloomsbury Festival 17-21 October 2018

Dear Friends,

This is to tell you about the Bloomsbury Festival 17-21 October 2018 and invite you my talk/ discussion, Democracy in Crisis: What’s gone wrong and how we can put it right. Thursday 18th October 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm at the Penn Club. A lot of people feel disillusioned with politics and politicians. But it does not have to be like this. We’ll re-imagine politics and explore how to bring about fundamental change.

 

The Bloomsbury Festival is five-day celebration of the area’s pioneering creativity. I feel very honoured and privileged to have a place in it.

 

I’d love you to come to my event, but the whole festival is amazing. So have a good look at the huge variety of other events, exhibitions, performance, music and film, new wave show-casing new talent, literature, workshops, walks, talks, family friendly events and tours a great street party.

 

My event is free, but you are advised to book a place early as there will be only 40-45 seats.

 

Please spread the word amongst people you think would be interested in my talk and other events.

 

Hope to see you there but in any case many thanks,

 

Bruce

PS You can sign up for my occasional newsletter here where you will also be able buy my latest book The 21st Century Revolution: A Call to Greatness.

.

 

 

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IPPR Prosperity and Justice – A plan for the new economy

IPPR   Prosperity and Justice – A plan for the new economy

Here is one of the most far sighted, imaginative and practical set of proposals for the future of the British economy. It stands beside the similar excellent proposals of the Will Hutton and Andrew Adonis book Saving Britain – How We Must Change to Prosper in Europe  https://guardianbookshop.com/saving-britain.html .

Prosperity and Justice argues that the economy is not working for millions of people and needs fundamental reform.

It is the product of a two-year enquiry into the UK economy, the final report of the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice https://www.ippr.org/research/publications/prosperity-and-justice-executive-summary presents a plan for economic reform to achieve prosperity and justice together. The members of the commission were drawn from a wide range of interests including business leaders, entrepreneurs, scientists, people in the cultural world and the General Secretary of the TUC. It sets out to remedy the failure to address the urgent need, after some fifty years of decline, for an industrial revolution benefitting the UK as a whole.

It is notable that it is being taken seriously by John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.

My only criticism of both is that there is insufficient emphasis on the need to prosper by greening our economy, focus on the wellbeing of all life and living lightly on the planet if humanity is to survive.

These are the key messages.

  1. The UK economy is not working. It is no longer delivering rising living standards for a majority of the population. Average earnings have stagnated for more than a decade – even while economic growth has occurred. Too many people are in insecure jobs; young people are set to be poorer than their parents; the nations and regions of the UK are diverging further. As more and more people feel economically disenfranchised, the political consequences are being felt across society.
  2. The economy needs fundamental reform. Many of the causes of the UK’s poor economic performance – particularly its weaknesses in productivity, investment and trade – go back 30 years or more. They will not be addressed by incremental change or trying to ‘muddle through’. Fundamental reform has happened twice before in the last century following periods of crisis – with the Attlee government’s Keynesian reforms in the 1940s and the Thatcher government’s free market reforms in the 1980s. Ten years after the financial crash, change of this magnitude is needed again.
  3. A fair economy is a strong economy. It used to be thought that prosperity and economic justice were in conflict; we had to choose one or other but could not have both. The international evidence now points in precisely the opposite direction. A more equal economy generates stronger and more stable growth, lower social costs and greater wellbeing. Both economics and morality argue for an economy which achieves prosperity and justice together.
  4. Economic justice needs to be ‘hard-wired’ into the way the economy works. It is not sufficient to seek to redress injustices and inequalities simply by redistribution through the tax and benefit system. They need to be tackled at source, in the structures of the economy in which they arise. These include the labour market and wage bargaining, the ownership of capital and wealth, the governance of firms, the operation of the financial system and the rules that govern markets. Economic justice cannot be an afterthought; it must be built in to the economy.
  5. Achieving prosperity and justice together requires a comprehensive and integrated programme of reform across the economy. There is no ‘silver bullet’. Our 10-part plan includes far-reaching but achievable measures to:
  • promote ‘investment-led growth’ by raising public investment, holding down house price inflation and reducing the incentives that currently favour short-term shareholder returns over long-term productive investment
  • rebalance the economy through ‘new industrialisation’, away from an over-dependence on the finance sector towards a more diverse array of manufacturing and other innovative, export-oriented industries, located right across the country
  • give workers greater bargaining power, making it easier for trade unions to negotiate on their behalf to achieve higher productivity and to share its rewards fairly through better wages and conditions and reduced working time
  • pursue ‘managed automation’, accelerating the adoption of new technologies across the economy and ensuring that workers share in the productivity gains and re helped to retrain
  • promote open markets which reduce the near-monopoly power of dominant companies, particularly in the digital economy, and make data available to promote innovation for social good
  • spread wealth more widely in society, both by widening ownership of capital and through fairer forms of wealth and corporate taxation.
  1. Achieving change means redressing imbalances of economic power: from corporate management towards workers and trade unions, from dominant companies towards innovators and entrepreneurs, from short-term finance towards long-term investors, from Whitehall towards the nations and regions of the UK. We need a more active and purposeful state, acting to achieve prosperity, justice and environmental sustainability on behalf of society as a whole. It must be decentralised, with stronger powers for the nations and regions of the UK. Managing economic change will require greater social partnership, both within companies, and between businesses, trade unions, government and civil society.

7. Change is possible, and urgent. Many other countries have economies that are both fairer and more successful than ours. As we confront the challenges of Brexit, of further globalisation, and of technological, demographic and environmental change, doing nothing won’t keep things the same—it will  make things worse. The economy we have is a matter of choice, and changing it is a matter of democracy. Fundamental reform can be achieved, if we have the will to do so.

Bloomsbury Festival – Activists and Architects of Change.

Dear Friends,

This is to tell you about the Bloomsbury Festival 17-21 October 2018 and invite you my talk/ discussion, Democracy in Crisis: What’s gone wrong and how we can put it right . A lot of people feel disillusioned with politics and politicians. But it does not have to be like this. We’ll re-imagine politics and explore how to bring about fundamental change.

The Bloomsbury Festival  is five-day celebration of the area’s pioneering creativity. I am what is called a partner. I feel very honoured and privileged to have a place in it.

I’d love you to come to my event, but the whole festival is amazing. So have a good look at the huge variety of other events – exhibitions, performance, music and film, new wave show-casing new talent, literature, workshops, walks, talks, family friendly events and tours a great street party.

My event is free, but you are advised to book a place early as there will be only 40-45 seats.

Please spread the word amongst people you think would be interested in my talk and other events.

Many thanks,

Bruce

 

One of our holidays was a visit to La Scentella

IMG_2224

I hope you are having a lovely summer. We have had three holidays. It has been a welcome break from British politics.

One of our holidays was a visit to La Scentella an agriturismo in the Italian province of Le Marche bordering the Adriatic coast. Le Marche is an area of beautiful old hilltop towns. Down below are fields of grapes, olives, lavender, sunflowers, fruit and vegetables of many kinds.

Our host at La Scentella, Roberto Ferretti, a retired family therapist, an expert on peasant cooking, is an informal leader and co-ordinator of the many Agriturismos in the area. One year when we visited, he arranged a lavender festival in a great castle. He travels the world demonstrating Italian peasant cooking. As a result whilst his agriturismo attracts visitors from many countries.

Whilst we were staying six women from Japan, including a cook and a potter, a journalist and his friend, a couple from Sweden, another from Sicily, a family from Argentina and a woman from France.

IMG_1673

We often cooked meals together in Roberto’s kitchen under his direction and ate together. Roberto took us out to visit his friends: producers of fruit and vegetables, organic artisan grain and pizzas – the best I ever tasted, cheeses and makers of olive oil and a bread fair, after which everyone was fed using the lovely bread on display. What these agriturismos have in common is that most are organic and they share a love of high quality unadulterated local food.

IMG_1845_1Roberto had asked me to give a talk/discussion on Democracy in crisis: what’s gone wrong and how we can put it right. It would be much like my blog posts on the subject and talks that I have been giving in the UK. However I asked him to provide a speaker on the situation in Italy. In fact there were two, including a philosophy professor who said “we need a change of heart”. So true. I was also provided with an interpreter, a school teacher with very similar ideas to my own. We worked together to make my Power Points as concise as possible to allow time for her interpreting. Over fifty people came. First we all ate together in the garden.

IMG_1841_1Roberto’s world is a world of living well on our planet and international friendship. He modestly embodies his philosophy in his way of life. It is truly inspirational. His sort of approach, which is to influence by doing and being, is so refreshing and such a cure for the current aggressive and often abusive debate going on in the UK and European politics. We need to come together, collaborate and find common ground in re-imagining a better UK, a better Europe and a better World.Roberto’s world is a world of living well on our planet and international friendship. He modestly embodies his philosophy in his way of life. It is truly inspirational. His sort of approach, which is to influence by doing and being, is so refreshing and such a cure for the current aggressive and often abusive debate going on in the UK and European politics. We need to come together, collaborate and find common ground in re-imagining a better UK, a better Europe and a better World.

Bruce Nixon is author of The 21st Century Revolution: A Call to Greatness . My Blog and occasional newsletter, which you can sign up for on this site, are available to keep you up to date.

 

 

Review and Synopsis of Saving Britain – How we must change to prosper in Europe by Will Hutton and Andrew Adonis

This is not a conventional review. Following the review there is a synopsis of each chapter, intended to tempt you into buying the book, taking action and encouraging others to buy it.

 

Review

This is the most important book I have read in years. It’s about the state of Britain today and how it must be changed. It is full of practical ideas and solutions. It is written with passion and offers much needed hope. It is also shocking. Shocking because it reveals how bad things are, how poor our economy is and how badly we compare with other countries in Northern Europe. Shocking because it reveals the level of dishonesty, deceit and incompetence of many of our political leaders.

 

The book will empower you.

 

It provides an analysis of what has gone wrong over the past fifty years. The authors also put forward inspiring whole system proposals for a new economy and social settlement. Not all the ideas are new – none the worse for that – but they are put together when their time has come. The authors have been backed up by a substantial host of respected researchers.

 

It also reveals how divided our country is: the prosperous London and South East and the rest of the country, which by every measure is poor and deprived. It reveals how people were conned into voting for Brexit by what amounts to lies. How people were misled by sensational headlines in the right wing press such as the Daily Mail, Sun and Express, and were manipulated through social media and the Brexit campaign was illegally funded by a few rich donors.

 

We live at a time of great threats. In particular from Putin, Trump and Xi Jinping, the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. The EU is a force for good and security. It has set standards that the world is following. Britain, a small country, needs to be constructively playing its part in Europe as a member of a strong EU, as it has done hitherto.

 

The book is a manifesto for a better Britain, Better Europe and a better world.

 

And now we receive this news: The Planet Is Dangerously Close to the Tipping Point for a ‘Hothouse Earth’ from the Stockholm Resilience Centre

The big question is: where is the leadership of the stature needed to make these proposals happen? We need women and men of the calibre of Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Beverage, John Maynard Keynes, Attlee, Nye Bevan and George Marshall. I see no sign of their emerging yet, but they will if we play our part.

 

My only criticism of this book is that there is little mention of climate chaos, our destruction of the ecosystem, the deadly air pollution that is killing millions and the need to live lightly on the Planet Earth. These challenges are arguably the greatest facing humanity. This is a major omission. Addressing them is crucial to our survival. Also there are huge opportunity costs in not doing so. Providing sustainable energy and refurbing Britain’s leaky homes would provide thousands of jobs.

 

Now a summary of each chapter:

 

Chapter 1 Falling to pieces describes just how bad things are in the British economy outside the City and South East. England is two countries: London and the South East and the Rest. “Inequality is grotesque.” By every measure of wellbeing the North, Midlands, Wales and Northern Ireland are worse off; worse off than people in many other northern European countries. Nigel Lawson said in the Financial Times, “Brexit gives us the chance to finish the Thatcher revolution.” But what was that revolution? Moral decline – employees seen as costs, vast executive bonuses, the supreme objective of driving share price higher and faster. Austerity leading to cuts that delayed recovery and continue to have disastrous consequences. Productivity is stagnant and companies are underperforming. A third of Britain’ workforce is in persistent poverty. Real wages have fallen by 7% since 2008. Good jobs are increasingly rare, dead end jobs common, education poor, few good apprenticeships, poor career hopes, stagnant wages and virtually no social mobility.

 

The Farage technique was to blame our shortcomings on the EU and migration.

 

The realities of the huge interplay between UK and Europe manufacturing are not understood by Brexiteers. Nor are the advantages of doing business which is relatively near rather than thousands of miles away. Brexiteers fail to appreciate the advantages of the numerous EU trade deals and the difficulties Britain will face in establishing new ones. EU achievements are considerable: creating a greener environment, diminishing the dangers of climate change and promoting good working conditions such as health and safety. The EU made Britain stronger, not weaker. Much of what the Brexiteers offer is pie in the sky. At a time when China, the US and Russia grow ever more threatening, the West must stand together.

 

Chapter 2 How Mr Farage became leader of the Conservative Party I love this chapter. I like to think of Farage as the artful dodger or the pied piper. He has virtually the whole of Parliament at his feet, most MPs not daring to challenge the alleged “will of the people” , and call for an end to Brexit. Of course he’ll keep his MEP pension of 73,000 euros pa.

 

Mrs Thatcher’s policy was to destroy anything she could not control like the GLC. Her ideology was to privatise; hence she created the housing crisis. Her successor is Farage. “Faragism” became the driving philosophy of the Conservative Right. He is described in this chapter as “A brash public school semi-rebel – self-confessed “wind up merchant”, “bloody –minded” and “difficult”.  “Chap about town with a pint and a fag” image. He decided not to go to university but instead to make money in the metals market. He outwitted the Conservatives. He won MEP seats, manipulated the public, blaming their ills on migrants. He used the influence of Sky News, sensational headlines in the Sun and Daily Mail, money used illegally and manipulation of social media to misinform the people.  

 

Democracies can only function if citizens have accurate information. Cameron’s blasé approach to the referendum design did not help. This chapter sets out all the flaws in the referendum. And as said by Rafael Behr, in “This Faragism of the left will leave behind a loathing of all politics . The mood of radical protest is bad for moderates, most of all those making the case for Britain staying in the EU.

 

However underneath it all “Brexit voters were right. ….We need a new deal for a European Britain. We need to transform the way our country works. … Brexiteers dodge these truths.”

 

Chapter 3 The lion without the roar We are ambivalent. While many of us feel intensely European, two thirds do not. Yet Britain has always been deeply involved in Europe. Our history has been interwoven with Europe. Our monarchy is an example, a most European institution: The Georges from the House of Hanover; Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coberg; Queen Elizabeth 2 is cousin to many European kings or queens. Prince Philip is a prince of Greece and Denmark, son of a German princess, describing himself as a “European mongrel”. Most of us are descended from migrants. The Industrial Revolution arrived first in Britain but was due to an interplay with European Enlightenment. Social unrest associated with industrialisation was a catalyst for demand for democratisation, opening the door for redistribution and extension of social and educational right. William Beveridge, godfather of the NHS and welfare state, studied the social insurance for pensions and sickness introduced by Otto von Bismarck, first Chancellor of Germany, in the 1880s.

 

Winston Churchill, exemplifies the English European. “We must build a kind of United States of Europe”, in his 1946 Zurich speech. I quote from Saving Britain: “The reality is that British strategic thinking has always been – has always had to be – at least as European as global.”

 

Global Britain, branded by the some Brexiteers as “Empire 2.0” is ludicrous. At a time when democracy is under threat in many countries including our own, in a world facing great threats from Putin, Xi Jinping, Trump and not least Hothouse Earth , Britain, on its own, without an empire, is far too small. We need to be whole heartedly in Europe, working to make the EU stronger and more effective.

 

Chapter 4 Get real In today’s world no country can enjoy democracy, global economic integration and untrammelled national sovereignty free from international organisations. Sovereignty, democracy and the benefits of global trade are reconciled through the principle of subsidiarity under which the centre only performs those tasks which cannot be performed at a more local level. The EU creates a level playing field for its members and is large enough to stand up for principle. Otherwise there would be a race to the bottom in standards such as those for environment, employment, health, construction, engineering and education. Britain played a major part in fashioning these standards. Because of the EU’s strength, European models of regulation are being studied in the US, India, China and Brazil. The EU is large enough to cut good trade deals. The EU is a global trade hotspot and it is at the global frontiers of technology and productivity.

 

In getting real, this chapter spells out the realities of what will happen if we leave the EU. It also suggests a rational approach to addressing concerns about migration. We need to do more to train the people we need, particularly in the NHS. London’s Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan, makes many suggestions for assimilating migrants including helping them integrate fully. We can also negotiate an “emergency brake”.

                                                                                                                                                 

Chapter 5 Stakeholder capitalism and the new social contract

“Fundamental reform is now urgent. Social justice requires that every citizen in our islands should be confident of decent minimum living standards, comprehensive public services and the opportunity to make the best of their life, wherever they are born and live.”

 

This is the most visionary and inspiring chapter of all. It is refreshing at a time when political dialogue is at a low level. It is full of practical strategic solutions. It is critical of the failure of government over the past sixty years to create a modern British economy. According to neoliberal doctrine, less government is necessarily better government, including withdrawal from the EU. This is social and economic illiteracy. So is Austerity which has done huge damage to our economy and attempts to rebuild it, now compounded by Brexit.

 

In 1942 Beveridge declared war on “five giants” squalor, ignorance, want, idleness and disease. After the war for a time Britain did well. But efforts to continue were broken by bad relations with the unions. Enter Mrs Thatcher. Today there is a “shit life syndrome”: low or no skills, futility of many working lives, loss of hope and a mental health epidemic. Much of British capitalism performs badly, especially compared with Germany. We need a 2020 version of the ideas and practical imagination of Keynes, Beveridge and Attlee.

 

A new tune – a new economy.

Amongst the main features of the proposed strategy are:

  • A banking system that supports enterprises local, regional and national as in Germany.
  • Building stakeholder capitalism in which employees, customers, unions, suppliers have a stake and are represented on the board.
  • Challenging the PLC model and strengthening the law.
  • Company constitutions that state their purpose – such companies out-perform others.
  • Creating nodes of growth encouraging business clusters all over the country. A critical mass of thriving companies in regions that are large enough to work. Nodes of growth and “brain hub” clusters require “the entrepreneurial state”. The state’s role in supporting enterprise and funding important companies such as Rolls Royce and Glaxo Smith Kline is vital. In fact the City is a de facto example of both public and private collaboration.
  • Devolution to regions, cities and local communities is vital.
  • Digitalisation has huge potential but needs to be managed so that everyone benefits.
  • Encouraging innovation centres such as the Big Innovation Centre encouraged by Vince Cable.
  • Ending scandalous executive pay and emphasis on short term gain – what Keynes called “casino economics” through speculation and hedge fund jackals.
  • Fair taxation, fair to the individual and to businesses of different sizes. London is in effect the largest tax haven in the world.
  • Fostering a variety of models such as co-operatives, mutuals, trusts, partnerships, state companies, employee-owned companies and public benefit companies.
  • Mittelstand – the lessons it offers us. Alongside the major, world-famous companies, there is also a whole range of small and medium-sized companies in Germany which provide a large number of jobs and are extremely productive: these small and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs, make up what is known as the Mittelstand
  • Social responsibility: insisting companies are socially responsible especially global companies – Only the EU has successfully challenged Google’s monopoly, fining it 2.4 bn euros and making Facebook and Amazon pay more tax. The EU is now considering breaking up Google.
  • Transforming our education system so that it meets diverse individual and national needs – the right to life long development.
  • Unions need to re-invent themselves as social partners and co-creators of stakeholder capitalism.

As someone said to me at a talk I gave, “we need a change of heart”.

 

A new social contract. Briton has a weak implicit social contract. It needs a strong explicit one. Social policy is essentially “austerity for the poor and welfare for the rich”. Public services squeezed in many areas, especially social care, are threadbare, awful. The NHS in crisis is being privatised by stealth . Constant spending cuts are borne by the public. The consequences are disastrous. Local government spending has fallen by 40% since 2010. Tax evasion is huge. There is an obsession with reducing national debt even when the economy is weak – another case of economic illiteracy, not understanding what it is for. It is ridiculous to say we cannot afford decent public services.  This part of the book offers many proposals including a land value tax . However the book does not include Sovereign Money that would enable much needed public infrastructure investment without borrowing. Nor a Universal Basic Citizen’s Income , which could offer enormous benefits, especially as the 4th Industrial Revolution proceeds.

 

More democracy. “The cure for the ailments of democracy is more democracy.” John Dewey said. A Great Charter for Modern Britain would hand over power from Westminster to the cities, towns and counties of Britain, enabling them to transform their localities, represented in a Senate replacing the House of Lords, located in the north of England. This should be the foundation of a fully-fledged written constitution.

 

Honouring our young. Britain’s neglect of the young is the most shameful consequence of our disintegrating social services. We need a British Statute of Social Rights. Essentially we have an education system geared to produce three hundred thousand eighteen-year olds who each year go to the top twenty four Russell Group universities. The consequences for people and nation are severe. A revolution is needed. We need an excellent system that educates the half million or so teenagers who do not go to university and provides the skilled workers we so badly need. Back in 1884 a royal commission said: “The one point in which Germany is overwhelmingly superior to England is in schools…. The dense ignorance so common among workman in England is unknown in Germany.” We need to follow the examples of Germany, Denmark the Netherlands and Norway. Britain needs a £2.5 billion Education Marshall Plan.  Honouring our young also requires their having the vote from 16 and several suggestion for youth involvement are made.

 

Chapter 6 Taking back control At the eight-hundredth anniversary of the Magna Carta it’s time for a contemporary Great Charter to give real control to the nations, cities and localities of Britain and put an end to democratic feudalism. Living in Berkhamsted I can say “hear hear” to that but it applies far more urgently elsewhere. The authors argue with that “taking back control” is essentially a ruthless power grab to achieve “Thatcherism in one country”. Under the “winner takes all” electoral system, in seven out of ten elections the Tories have been the largest party. Of course it wants to be free from the constraints of the EU. Poet Ben Okri says that a nation’s written constitution is “the best story a people can tell about itself to itself”.  But Britain has no written constitution that tells the story of the rights, values, duties ambitions and institutions of the British people. The Conservatives argue that it is not necessary as liberty is in Britain’s DNA. This is contradicted by “our patchwork of inequality of opportunity, quiet suffering and enfeebled local communities”. Swathes of Britain are chronically poor, disempowered and embittered.  Without adequate financial resources they are unable to tackle social problems like housing and social care. A Statute of Self-Government is needed. We inspired the post-war democratic institutions in Western Europe, yet now the only written constitution of which we are a part of is Europe’s. We need a Great Charter of Modern Britain to entrench devolution in Parliament itself and replace the House of Lords with a Federal Senate of the United Kingdom with a mission to defend the interests of local communities across the UK and declare the social rights and responsibilities of the British people.

 

Chapter 7 Statutes of liberty In the six decades of the EU, no member state has invaded another and no member state has yet disowned democracy, remarkable achievements after the previous six decades was ravaged by two ferocious and destructive wars. We cannot be sure these horrors are over.

 

“There is a clear fault line running from Belgrade to Budapest and Warsaw. The new divisions between those who believe that their best hope for peace and prosperity lies in joining the rules-based European Union and NATO and those who base their hopes on the nationalism and authoritarianism”. Sir Ivor Roberts, British ambassador to Milošević’s Belgrade and Berlusconi’s Rome.

 

Then there is Putin’s gangster nationalism and a contemporary form of fascism. He will do all he can to undermine democracy elsewhere. Counter-revolution is virulent in central and eastern Europe. There are counter-revolutionary parties in virtually every country in Europe and that includes UKIP. As the authors say, “The 21st century is now in danger of belonging to populists branding independent judges ‘ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE’, the headlines in the Daily Mail denouncing the UK Supreme Court who dared to rule that Parliament must have a vote on Brexit.”

The Ukraine has been violated, the first such violation since WW2 (Actually Georgia was occupied first- in 2008.). A semi-detached Britain will not help. Add Trump’s ambivalence. NATO is not enough. We need to be fully involved in Europe’s security system. Ireland, with whom we now have excellent relations, may become the Achilles heel of Brexit and the Brexit right is actually calling for an end to the Good Friday Agreement.

 

Here are concluding proposals:

  • More should be done to connect the EU to European citizens. One way of doing this would be to replace half MEPs with representatives from the parliaments of member states.
  • The EU should give mainstream parties ammunition to fight back.
  • Freedom of movement should be qualified by giving countries to invoke short-term “emergency breaks” if immigration reaches pre-defined upper thresholds.
  • The argument for staying in the EU should be buttressed by a commitment to repurpose our capitalism, reforge our social contract, and recast our democratic institutions so they work for everyone. Done against a background of rising living standards and economic growth. This requires building on our trade relationships with the EU and the dozens of signatories to its trade deals.
  • Country must come before party. The “Brussells bureaucracy” is smaller than London’s Metropolitan Police. Labour’s 217 Manifesto is implementable within the EU. Conservatives prepared to challenge the Brexit right, the best of Labour, Lib Dem, Green and Scottish Nationalist parties must come together to prevent to ensure we stay in the EU.

 

The EU is a crucial part of the power balance that sustains an international order to secure the common good in face of Russia’s, China’s and the US ambitions. Today’s young people and future generations will bitterly reproach us for not being part of it.

 

“A battle is only won by those who are firmly resolved to win it”. Tolstoy in War and Peace.

 

What to do next. At the end of the book, is a list of organisations readers can use to make a difference.

 

Bruce Nixon is author of The 21st Century Revolution: A Call to Greatness. My Blog and occasional newsletter, which you can sign up for on this site, are available to keep you uptodate.

 

 

Economics by Kate Raworth – Book Review by Paul de Hoest

Doughnut Economics is not just about economics, it’s a wide ranging political book about life itself, the future of our planet and the role that economics plays in shaping our future.  It is a visionary book that portrays a future collaborative possibility in which everyone’s basic human needs are met whilst at the same time not destroying our shared ecological habitat. It is an easy read, you certainly do not need an economics qualification to understand it, although it is a book that deserves to be read by both economists and non-economists alike.

You might think that the implied goal of public policymaking, nationally and globally, to ensure that everyone’s human needs are met whilst not destroying our shared habitat would be uncontentious but I am not aware that it has ever been expressed in that way by any one in office and, as Raworth points out, we are a long way from achieving it.  The two great achievements of Raworth’s book are firstly that she proposes an intuitive framework in which to consider that policy problem (“The Doughnut”) and second, she demonstrates that the current political obsession with “economics first before everything else follows” is wrong-headed and the economy needs to be thought of as embedded within the living world so that the current policy measure of choice, GDP growth, becomes incidental to other policy objectives rather than it having any merit as a goal in itself.Doughnut 1 Jpeg Scan

The essence of the Doughnut is that there is a social foundation floor of well-being that no one should fall below and an ecological Doughnut ceiling of planetary pressure that we cannot safely go beyond. Between the two lies a safe and just space for all. These are presented pictorially as two concentric circles – the inner circle represents the social foundation floor and the outer circle represents the planetary ecological limits.  The safe and just space for mankind is represented by the space between the concentric circles.

Raworth comes to the unsurprising conclusion that we are currently operating both inside the inner circle (e.g. billions of people in the world in absolute poverty, lack access to basic education, have no political voice or have no access to clean water) whilst at the same time we are operating outside the outer circle (e.g. climate change, excess resource extraction, land degradation and bio-diversity loss).  The challenge therefore is to manage living standards upwards for millions of people whilst managing downwards the excessive pressures placed on ecological resources. Unsurprisingly therefore much attention is given to how to reduce global inequality and better manage resources.Doughnut 2 Jpeg Scan

The great insight of the book is that the current policy obsession with money GDP ignores the scope to unleash the powers within the un-monetised household and commons sector and the role of the state to support these as well as the market.  The book demonstrates that the economy is not a mechanical model that responds predictably to external stimulus but rather should be thought of as a living organism that behaves more like a complex system than a machine.  Such an organism is self-directed, creative and constantly evolving.

Raworth does not pretend to have all the answers but she presents many examples that have been implemented all over the world that are thriving despite acting within the current self-imposed straightjacket of finance and GDP hegemony.  There are sufficient examples to provide a glimpse of a possible future and demonstrate that there is so much untapped potential to be unleashed through, for example, open source communications and collaboration, that it is entirely credible to believe it is possible to achieve the twin goals of reducing global inequality whilst restoring our impact on the earth.

This is an optimistic book that should be read by anyone interested in understanding why we are failing to tackle inequality, climate change and resource depletion and what can be done to change this.  Raworth says that “we are the first generation to properly understand the damage we have been doing to our planetary household, and probably the last generation with a chance to do something transformative about it.”  Once you have grasped that there really is a choice then this book points towards a more equal, inclusive, happier and more human future without destroying the Earth if only we have the courage to change our current economic mindset and try.  There is not much time left to make that choice!

Buy it from Amazon or better still your local bookshop.

Paul de Hoest

 

 

 

 

Brexit: This is a 1940 moment in history.

It is becoming increasingly clear that exiting the EU is not in our best interests and will do great harm. The Japanese ambassador sums this up clearly in There won’t be a deal better than the single market. We are for Japan a main channel for their export of cars into Europe as he says.

 

Some compromise like remaining in the single market or customs union will not give us the seat at the EU table that is in both our interests and those of the EU. We need to continue to exercise our leadership as we have done for many years. On our own, a small country, we will have less influence in the world. That gives us more power in the world than if we are outside, not less.

 

The repeated mantra “It’s the will of the people” is propaganda, an untruth. Only 37% of electorate, representing 26% of “the people”, voted for Brexit. We also need to challenge “when we leave the EU”, as if it were a foregone conclusion, another piece of propaganda.

So 74% did not vote for Brexit. Many parts of the United Kingdom did not want to leave. There were huge differences depending on age. Sixteen and seventeen year olds, amongst those likely to be most adversely affected, had no vote. It is clear that a referendum was inappropriate for such a complex issue. And it was explicitly advisory. Most MPs, about 73%, are in favour of Remain.

 

Furthermore there are grave concerns about whether the referendum was legitimate. Did voters have, could they have had the abundant information we have now about the harm it would do and is already doing to our economy and many other aspects of our society? For example the dire effects on the NHS, skill shortages hampering our industries and many areas that are already emerging. There are also grave concerns about the legitimacy of the referendum- for example funding and the part played by social media manipulation 

 

We know that the Brexit vote was in part a protest about the consequences of an economy that had failed to meet the needs of many people for over a generation. We know that young people will suffer most. We know that our cultural industry and many more will suffer. Polls show a large and increasing majority of young people are against Brexit – the then 16 to17 year olds did not have a say nor do they now.

 

Unlock Democracy believes the EU Withdrawal Bill is a power grab, plain and simple that will trample on our rights, puts more power in the hands of Westminster and threatens hard-won devolution settlements in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and it must be resisted. They are asking for funds to continue their campaigns .

 

There is confusion in the Tory government. It is like a nest of vipers. We need an about turn. The situation requires the majority of MPs of whatever party to demand this about turn. And the government to say: sorry, we were wrong. It is now clear that Brexit is a mistake. Where is the courage to do what’s best for the nation?  

What can you do? Urge your MP to speak up, challenge the mantra “It’s the will of the people” and demand an about turn and a new approach to reforming the European Union. And support Unlock Democracy http://www.unlockdemocracy.org/

  Bruce Nixon is author of The 21st Century Revolution: A Call to Greatness