On the edge of my hometown stands a boulder about shoulder high, hewn from the mountainside, with the word “Rebeca” inscribed on its surface. It commemorates the night of the 6th September 1843, when over a hundred working-class men on horseback rode out, in full drag, and destroyed the most grievous symbol of class oppression in rural Wales – the toll gate.
by Rowan Gavin
As the farce of university bosses’ salaries has finally entered mainstream debate this year, I’ve often found myself wishing that the kind of people who are comfortable taking pay rises six times larger than their average member of staff, and who don’t see a problem in sitting on the committees that decide their salary, would just piss off out of our universities altogether. So when I read the FT’s interview* with Bolton Uni VC Prof George Holmes the other day, I’ll admit I was a little surprised to read his proposal for a method of achieving just that.
from a member of UEA Labour Students
In the midst of multiple crises faced by students, universities and schools, the outcome of the snap general election will be a major indicator of the future of the UK education sector. Each week until the vote we are featuring perspectives from our regular contributors and guests on what the election could mean for students.
Having resolved to sit down today and write this article, I’m struck by the appropriateness of my day. I caught the bus to UEA from outside one of the few remaining Sure Start centres, a public service provided by the last Labour government which has been decimated by the Conservatives (and Liberal Democrats) since 2010. My bus was 40 minutes late, the consequence of a privatised, under-funded service – and even the previously UEA-hosted launderette I went to had been privatised since I last used it. It served as a strong reminder of the power of Labour government to change lives for the better, which contrasts with the crumbling services and privatisation festival that has characterised the last 7 years of Conservative and ConDem government.
by Toby Gill
When Theresa May announced her snap election, I was travelling across Japan. At the time I was spending a lot of time on a variety of very slow trains (the famous bullet trains were somewhat beyond our budget). This gave me a lot of down-time to ponder my electoral choices, and consider which way I should vote. It also gave me a lot of time to read the latest tome of modern history I had picked up: Martin Pugh’s State and Society; a social and political history of Britain since 1870. It is not a politicised book; it markets itself as a rigorous work of academic history, designed to introduce new undergraduates to the period – a task it performs superbly.
However, this is a politicised book review.Continue Reading
by Hannah Rose
Louise Mothersole and Rebecca Biscuit—aka Sh!t Theatre—are Generation Renters living in Windsor House on the Woodberry Down housing estate in Hackney. Their digs are dirty, cramped, noisy and downright dangerous—thankfully, the pigeon netting saved one of them from a fall off the balcony (which, incidentally, is covered in pigeon shit).
The kitchen is “fucking disgusting,” not to mention expensive at £1200 a month. This however, is the standard experience for thousands of London dwellers who have no hope in securing affordable, safe housing in England’s capital city. In Letters to Windsor House, Louise and Rebecca crack open a window and shine a light on the London housing bubble via this renegade piece of political theatre—a stimulating medley of storytelling, reportage, video, and Oliver inspired songs.Continue Reading
By Olivia Hanks
There were inspiring stories from Green parties all around the world at the Global Greens congress in Liverpool, but arguably one of the most uplifting came from Isabella Lövin. The Swedish Green Party spokesperson has been minister for international development cooperation since her party entered government in coalition with the Social Democrats in October 2014.
Lövin recounted how, despite being by far the junior partner in the coalition (25 seats in parliament to the Social Democrats’ 113), the Greens have brought about numerous changes in policy: “We have put forward a climate law obliging all future governments to achieve net zero emissions by 2045,” she told delegates. “We also have a broad cross-party agreement to have 100 percent renewable electricity by 2040. And, mind you – without nuclear power!”
by Cadi Cliff
CW: menstruation, abuse
I feel my body break open
and bleed for you
when we least expect it.
By Olivia Hanks
Richard Murphy is in some ways an unlikely figure. A tax expert and former accountant, his views are resolutely anti-establishment: asked on air in 2012 to name the greatest threats to democracy, he responded “Deloitte, KPMG, PwC and Ernst & Young”. Yet despite having some vociferous critics (as you would expect for someone whose raison d’être is forcing the wealthy to pay their share of tax), his influence is now being felt: as the architect of country-by-country reporting, which requires corporations to publish figures for every country in which they operate so that it is clear when profit has been moved into low-tax jurisdictions, he has helped to create a framework for taxation transparency worldwide. Country-by-country reporting has now been adopted by the OECD and the EU.Continue Reading
by Martie Warin
I was born and raised in the pit village of Easington, close to the North East coast in County Durham. The Colliery was thriving and a great place to live when I was a growing up. There were plenty of jobs at the pit and everyone looked out for each other. It was (and still is in a lot of ways) a safe and caring community. Sadly, our way of life was turned on its head in 1993 when the wheel stopped turning, and despite a community rending period of strike action, the pits were closed. People suffered then, and continue to suffer the effects now. The cuts of recent years continue to rub salt into the wounds of these once proud people. Now I know coal mining is certainly not Green, but compassion and justice are!Continue Reading
by Gunnar Eigener
“The difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion is the thickness of a prison wall.”
Denis Healey, UK Chancellor 1974-79
The leak of over eleven million documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca only really scratches the surface. Like all tax havens, there is a long history of corruption and exploitation to which the tale of Panama is no exception.
In 1937, then US Treasury Secretary, Henry Morgenthau, wrote a letter to President Franklin D Roosevelt, singling out the Bahamas, Panama and Newfoundland as places where:
‘stock-holders have resorted to all manners of devices to prevent the acquisition of information regarding their companies. The companies are frequently organised through foreign lawyers with dummy incorporators and dummy directors, so that the names of the real parties in interest do not appear.’
by George Laver
Following the unexpected leak of around 11.5 million documents from a law firm based in Panama, known as Mossack Fonseca, an upheaval of an internationally unprecedented scale has begun. Just this week in Iceland, protests managed to uproot and depose the Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson following the revelations of his involvement with the law firm. It would seem that Iceland’s now-former PM is at least a little more receptive to the voice of protesters than our own.
It is ours who instead decided to reflex their power first through soft means – rejection of discussion, suddenly producing papers on the matter, or even averting the discourse to another open window – which will eventually filter through the armed wings of government in response to protest, being an increasingly well-armed police force and, if push came to shove, the army. Already in response to the revelations in the UK, there have been protests attended by the thousands, with many more set to occur within the next fortnight. Even amongst the calamity, I feel that there is a key question being missed: What vacuum in public appeal does this present? Tackling the cause at its root, it is this question that much be redressed; although it is formally an issue concerning tax, the deeper principle at hand – and truths which can be demonstrated – surround the very nature of public service.
By Faizal Nor Izham
Two weeks ago, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opened to mixed reviews from film critics, but nonetheless went on to perform spectacularly at the box office. Just this week, the Panama Papers were also unleashed into the public sphere, from the world’s fourth-biggest offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca. The 11.5 million document leak featured startling revelations on a web of shady offshore accounting, involving twelve prominent world leaders including David Cameron. Implicating a total of 143 world politicians, their families and close associates, the leaks demonstrated the various ways in which elite rulers have been exploiting secretive offshore tax regimes.
by Olivia Hanks
I’m writing this because I’m unhappy about small businesses not paying tax.
Yes, you read that right.
We all know about the coffee chains and technology giants that are siphoning off society’s wealth and making no contribution; I’m talking about the small, local businesses that are the real lifeblood of every town’s economy.Continue Reading
by Gunnar Eigener
‘War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.’ – George Orwell
In the aftermath of acts of terrorism — spotlight grabbing though it might be — politicians reach out, indirectly and through other politicians, to those affected. It demonstrates that perhaps they possess some element of humanity themselves. The media briefly shows the caring actions of the people of those countries and cities devastated, physically and emotionally. Then, once all has been said and done, business returns to normal.
We point and laugh across the pond at the circus that is Donald Trump’s presidential bid. We criticise the depths to which the Republicans stoop to find a scapegoat for America’s problems. Yet what we fail to recognise is that the same process is taking place here — it is simply spread across European governments instead of being conveniently bundled up into one laughable narcissistic crazy-haired package. We try to convince ourselves that not in Europe would we allow such bile and hatred come from one individual and we don’t. But nor do we look at the bigger picture and see that very same bile and hatred come in the form of legislation and government actions.Continue Reading
by Gunnar Eigener
If countries were named after the words you first hear when you go there, England would have to be called ‘Damn It’.
Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Aphorisms
As the Conservative government struggles to find its beating heart and resolve the issue of immigration both here and at the root cause, another issue is steadily making its way to the surface – although it is unlikely to garner as much attention as its opposite issue – emigration. At the moment it isn’t so much about the numbers as it about the reasoning: why are so many people eager to abandon the United Kingdom?
by Josh Wilson
Politics is about narratives. The problem is that these narratives have a real impact on people’s lives. We are likely to have a decade of Tory rule, a decade of the systematic destruction of our welfare state and all modes of the redistribution of wealth. Corporation tax rates have reduced significantly under this government, as well as the tax rate for the richest in society. We have seen significant cuts to public spending across the board including local governments, arts and higher education. But the Tories are good at narratives. They have weaved a myth of austerity despite it going against the economic consensus. We are still feeling the effects of the global financial crisis of 2008 and yet people seem to barely talk about this and be more concerned by spending levels than an out-of-control banking system.
On a majority of just 17 seats in the House of Commons the Conservatives seem confident, but I believe this confidence can be knocked using a few counter-narratives. A narrative of solidarity, one that illuminates the Tories as a party that is anti-poor, anti-worker and only on the side of the richest in our society. The three policies that are key to this narrative are the work penalty, junior doctors’ contracts and the British steel industry.
By Natasha Senior
I often hear that too many Westminster policies only benefit London. This part is technically true. London is not only the financial capital of the UK but the financial capital of the world—a fact reflected in how disproportionately powerful and wealthy it is compared to the rest of the UK. The country’s government and national media are both based in London which invariably means that the issues discussed will tend to be skewed towards the area (something I only realised when I moved away). But for all the ways you could describe the city’s privileged position—even if your personal choice of adjective is less than favourable (crowded, impersonal, selfish… etc.)—try to bear in mind what exactly you’re describing. Is it the City of London or the citizens of London? Because the distinction between them represents two profoundly different worlds, divided by wealth, housing and opportunity. This is a divide that deepens every year at an alarming rate.
by Rowan Van Tromp
This summer George Osborne announced that the current system of non-repayable, means-tested maintenance grants would be scrapped and replaced by additional maintenance loans. He deemed it “basic unfairness” to ask taxpayers to fund grants for people who are likely to earn a lot more than them.
Perhaps then it’s his experiences of the tax affairs of Tory party benefactors, such as Michael Ashcroft (also known as Lord Ashcroft to those who adhere to the moronic social phenomenon of ‘peerage’), that blinds the Chancellor from the logical conclusion that earning more justifiably means paying higher taxes, to, for instance, provide an equal means by which people can access higher education.Continue Reading
by Matilda Carter
For a political analyst who swears by the idea that only parties on the centre-ground can win elections, Labour may just be about, to coin a phrase, to write the most-signed suicide note in history. Jeremy Corbyn, an opponent of the Blair-Brown ‘modernisation’ project and staunch advocate of socialism, is the front runner to become the party’s new leader, with odds that started as 100/1 becoming so short that Paddy Power has already paid out bets made in his favour over three weeks from the announcement of the result.
and a legal challenge
notwithstanding, the Labour that emerges from this election will be a very different beast. Top-down party management will be eschewed for the empowerment of the, now, huge number of members of the party, foreign policy will drastically change and, perhaps most importantly, Corbyn’s Labour will break the austerity consensus that has set over Europe.
by John Sillett
On the 800th anniversary this year of the signing by King John of the Great Charter.
We are told the Magna Carta is the foundation of the rule of law in England. This is partly true. The Charter was a truce between a power obsessed and ruthless king and his power obsessed and ruthless supporters who thought he had overstepped the mark. All law represents a truce between contending forces in society.
by Jack Brindelli.
The Norfolk People’s Assembly staged a mobile protest throughout the city of Norwich on Saturday afternoon (June 14th). The demonstration, which came as part of a national day of action called by UK Uncut, targeted Vodafone stores in particular, after the communications giant admitted it paid “little to no income tax” in the UK.
At a time when many ordinary people are scared and angered by spending cuts to public services, education and the NHS, the event in Norwich seemed to capture the mood of the public. Some passers-by commented that were they to behave in the manner of Vodafone they would be “locked up”, whilst others congratulated the local anti-cuts activists for taking a stand. However, the welcome was not all friendly.