Monday, 30 July 2007

Gordon in the Washington Post

Partnership for the Ages By Gordon Brown
Monday, July 30, 2007; Page A15

"....I have come to the United States to affirm the historic partnership of shared purpose that unites our two countries.....our Atlantic partnership is rooted in something far more fundamental and lasting than common interests or even common history: It is anchored in shared ideals that have for two centuries linked the destinies of our two countries. Winston Churchill spoke of what he called "the joint inheritance" of Britain and America. ...The joint inheritance he wrote of was a shared belief in what he called "the great principles of 'freedom and the rights of man.' " Values that started with the British idea of liberty -- from our bill of rights to English common law -- found their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence....

...And when today, at my meeting with President Bush, I speak of a joint inheritance not just of shared history but shared values founded on a shared destiny, I mean the idea that everyone is created equal, that all faiths should be free to express their beliefs...It is these ideas that bind us and give us strength to work together to face down every challenge ahead -- from the danger of nuclear proliferation, global poverty and climate change to, today, the biggest single and immediate challenge the world has to defeat: global terrorism that is hostile and hateful to all the values we this generation we defend together the ideal of freedom against the terrorist threat.

In this century, it has fallen to America to take center stage. And let me acknowledge the debt the world owes to the United States for its leadership in this struggle....It is our shared task to expose terrorism for what it is -- not a cause but a crime. A crime against humanity....So today the struggles of the 21st century are the battles that engage military might which we have been fighting together in Iraq and Afghanistan and through NATO -- and they are also the battles of ideas....during the Cold War, the united front against Soviet communism involved deterrence through large arsenals of weapons and a cultural effort also on an unprecedented scale, deploying what Roosevelt called the "arsenal of democracy." ...Foundations, trusts, ...universities, museums, unions... -- were all engaged. ...newspapers, ... the arts and literature sought to expose the difference between moderation and violent extremism.

...the way ahead is to support all communities in developing a strong identity resistant to violent extremists trying to recruit vulnerable young people....We must expose the contrast between great objectives to tackle global poverty and honor human dignity, and the evils of terrorists who would bomb and maim people irrespective of faith...

And just as we are united in tackling global terrorism, so we are united in our belief that globalization should be seen as an opportunity and not simply a threat. This is why I know that by working together we can restart the Doha round of world trade...And ...we cannot stand by and watch the humanitarian crisis in Darfur without taking action to speed up the deployment of U.N.-African Union troops, call for an immediate cease-fire and, following America's lead, impose sanctions if necessary. ...

Monday, 23 July 2007

Frank Cook MP

One of the few decent MPs left, Frank Cook has failed to get automatically reselected by his constituency and now faces reselection in Stockton North. It will now go to an open contest.
According to another forum, likely runners alongside Cook are Unison President Norma Stephenson and the Brownite former Hornsey and Wood Green MP, Barbara Roche.

Any thoughts anyone?

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Poverty in the UK

This morning's report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation will come as no surprise to those of us who have repeatedly raised the issue of poverty and the damaging effects of free market economics on the population of the UK.

However, they are useful in isolating a few key points.

The first few things which leap from the page on reading the report are:

  • how the much-maligned 1970s saw a reduction in both the very poor and very rich
  • how little has changed since the 1980s to redress the damage done by Thatcherism
  • what Will Hutton called the 30-40-30 split is more accurately a 25-50-25 split between the poor, middle and wealthy.

One interesting point is how, since the 1990s, the number of very poor ("core poor") has declined but the number of breadline poor has increased. One persuasive explanation put forward for this is that the numbers of unemployed have fallen as the number of people working for a pittance has increased i.e. people are moved off unemployment benefit onto low-wage jobs.

This confirms what we have learned both anecdotally and statistically about the effects of the minimum wage. The Labour Government of the past few years ought to be congratulated on its introduction (and the lack of recession) but substituting "breadline poverty" for "core poverty" is hardly the great step forward which many of us might have expected from ten years of a Labour Government.

The urgency of the COFUP campaign has never seemed greater.

As a final aside, this report interested me particularly as, by coincidence, I started reading some of Charles Booth's reports on poverty in 19th century London this morning. The improvements to working people's lives made by the welfare state need hardly be remarked on again. What is so shameful is that which has not changed. Immigrant workers in particular are still overworked and underpaid.

Neither Charles Booth nor the Rowntree Foundation (both well intentioned middle-class reformers) offers much in the way of solutions. Those solutions must be presented and fought for by us in the Labour Party and the trade unions.

Any thoughts?

Monday, 16 July 2007


Utterly stressed out after five-hour journey from Llangollen ( third of three trains broke down at Rochdale) so not much coherent thought today. Saw Jose Carreras last night and he was fab....truly in a different League from all the pub singer wannabees who currently hit the headlines. A great experience. Soaked in the Welsh rain and atmosphere and spent some time finishing the second volume of Michael Foot's famous biography of Nye Bevan ( which I picked up in Oxfam the other week) .The trials and tribulations which Bevan suffered at the behest of the right of the Party (almost getting expelled at one point) make for strangely familiar reading. And bit depressing to note that Bevan, who died in 1960 when I was a baby, would I wager still be pretty unimpressed with Party policy , the right-wing bureaucrats and trade union leaders' timidity when challenging the staus quo. Bet he would have loved Carreras , though.....

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Peak Oil

With oil set to reach $80 per barrel in the next few days, this topic will affect our international politics in the coming months. With the US government finally producing a report admitting the potential of Oil depletion in the near future and it's impact on world economy, parliament have started to act.

U.K. Parliament Members Form `Peak Oil' Group to Study Reserves

July 10 (Bloomberg) -- The U.K. parliament formed a group to study peak oil, the theory that world oil production is approaching its zenith, as British lawmakers face up to the country's future as an energy importer.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil and Gas, which held its first meeting June 26, comprises 32 members of the House of Commons, or lower chamber, and seven from the House of Lords, or upper chamber.
It aims to collate predictions for when production may peak and consider the implications for energy policy, rather than push a particular view, said the group's chairman, John Hemming, a Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley, central England.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil and Gas (APPGOPO) now has a website:

They are holding an open meeting at Portcullis House on the 24th (see website) with a presentation from David Strahan author of a recent book on oil depletion - he doesn't appear to be the most conservative of the ever-growing group of authors on this topic - but perhaps a shock is what is needed - or will it turn-off the audience? If anyone can get along to it I would love to hear about it.

I could argue that Peak Oil is imminent or that's it's a ploy by BIG OIL to push up prices. But I think policies for reducing car use must be implemented in the very near future - something for NEC to consider.

Why do many people commute when they could just as easily work from home in this telecommunications age?