Dead Men Left

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

On finding the real scroungers


Fraud and overpayment in public sector bodies including primary care trusts, hospital trusts and local authorities hit £111 million in the last two years, it has been revealed.

The Audit Commission's National Fraud Initiative showed a 33 per cent increase in 2004/05 compared with 2002/03 in nearly 1,300 public bodies...

"The message to those tempted to steal from public service bodies is that there is now more chance than ever of being caught," Steve Bundred, the Audit Commission chief executive, said.

The report revealed a number of cases in which failed asylum-seekers were employed by local authorities or NHS organisations, received housing benefit or other state benefits, or had local authority accommodation.

£111m! Asylum seekers! It's daylight robbery!

Tax avoidance by the super-rich is costing the country £10bn per year...

Wealthy individuals - earning millions per year - use loopholes to beat the system, including avoiding National Insurance through bonuses paid in gold and having salaries delivered through offshore trusts and loans which are later written off.

"...more chance than ever of being caught": if only.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Hackney. Funny old place. It's council is overthrowing capitalism and replacing it with something nicer:

Hackney Council is calling on Nike to compensate the young people of Hackney for their misappropriation of the Council's logo for use on a World Cup range of sportswear. The Council has threatened Nike with legal action, after the global sportswear giant produced a range of kit and equipment bearing an exact replica of the Council's logo, without seeking permission. The Council is demanding financial compensation to spend on sports development in the borough.

No Logo innit. The council website has pictures. Why anyone in their right mind would want to wear the beastly garments I do not know, though they're (perhaps) preferable to godawful Oxford hoodies. Also naughtily abusing the Hackney Council logo, this.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The North, being grim

Fascinating creature, John Reid. Been keeping an eye on him and stumbled over this:

Instead, Reid sees the rise of New Labour as the regional Labour heartlands reclaiming a lost extremist metropolitan citadel. But despite the brogue and the working-class roots, Reid is the ultimate Labour iconoclast; there are no sacred cows in his personal political manifesto apart from a determined will to gain power. His policy aims are avowedly market capitalist. "The only thing that is constant is change. We should be permanent revisionists. We should never believe that what we are doing is essentially right because it pleases the party faithful. We must look and apply our analysis of the way society is working and prepare to update and change."

The first sentence is the most important - I just didn't want you to miss out on Reid's nudge-nudge, wink-wink with the "permanent revisionist". That line about Northern hordes descending upon the metropolis, out for loot perhaps, reminded me of this Times article on Cameron's difficulties:

In 1979 the Tories held many constituencies across the North, as well as a dozen in Scotland. Today they have only one in Scotland. Despite being accused of turning its back on the northern cities in the 1980s, the party held on to local government and Westminster seats under Margaret Thatcher and it was not until the 1990s that first Tory councillors, then MPs, were voted out.

There's a whole history to be written of the British Left's relationship to the North-South divide. (Actually, for all I know, it may already have been written. Anyone got any ideas?) It's something that stretches right the way back to Will Cuffay attempting to lead the metropolitan masses against the cowardly, Northern leadership of the Chartists in 1848; or Jarrow marchers refusing to join the London-centred NUWM. The triumphant march of Blairism into Downing Street would probably belong with those two, should we believe Reid's version of events.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Embarrassing memories

Martin Kettle - he's a very quick way to annoy yourself:

One of the ways New Labour deliberately signalled its break from the past was to burn its bridges with what it saw as luvviedom. Where Neil Kinnock had embraced the arts with exuberance, Blair icily kept his distance.

...what the hell is he on about? This is raging nonsense, it's rolling around on the floor and giggling hysterically, it's banging your fists against either side of your head and howling - "icily keeping his distance"?

And then:

Perhaps politics and the arts don't, can't and maybe even shouldn't mix. That was certainly what Lenin thought; which seems a good enough reason to assert that they can.

Blairites for Proletkult? It figures.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Actually properly scary, for once.

This is also frightening, though in different way. They might start breeding.

Vauxhall (briefly)

That dynamic UK economy, again:

Union leaders claimed last night that manufacturing was being "massacred" after Vauxhall announced plans to axe 900 jobs and the rate of unemployment rose to its highest level for four years.

Unlike the fools on the continet, you see, we've got a wonderful flexible labour market that creates jobs. Andrew Glyn offers a good, short assessment (PDF):

The case for labour market deregulation in Europe is that it would have a major effect on European joblessness... the cross country evidence does not bear this out. Moreover the benefits of labour market regulation and welfare state measures in terms of a wage floor , income security, job security and conditions at work are frequently ignored... The call for comprehensive labour market deregulation in Europe lacks empirical justification in terms of large and predictable effects on employment and thus a more egalitarian distribution of welfare.

(Interesting to note, by-the-by, that New Labour is becoming increasingly open about offering state aid.)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Post on nuclear power over at the Tomb.

Vaguely worth noting

In passing, this one:

US investors are rushing for exits in risky markets across the world, accelerating an ugly sell-off in Turkey, Indonesia, India, Russia, and Brazil...

Mr Bloom [HSBC "currency expert"] said fears of a dollar collapse had been the chief source of contagion spreading worldwide...

"I expect the dollar to fall fast and furious against everything because the point of inflexion has been reached in US interest rates," he said. "If the Fed is not going to keep rewarding me with higher rates for the risk of holding dollar assets, why should I hold them?

"The US is importing $750bn more than it is exporting every year and now has $2,500bn in external liabilities. This is a big call on world savings and it can't go on forever," he added.

This overweening desire for security hardly betokens a system enjoying a glorious renaissance, but you may have guessed that already.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Irrational non-exuberance

Cheap and easy, this one.

May 9:
World stock markets finally expunged the memories of one of the worst bear markets in history yesterday when they surpassed the levels reached ahead of the collapse of the dotcom bubble in 2000.

May 13:
London's financial market suffered its worst day of trading in more than three years as stock markets across the globe responded to fears that accelerating inflation will lead to a hike in interest rates.

London's leading FTSE 100 index experienced its worst day since March 12 2003, the day war broke out in Iraq, as investors moved to take profits amid fears the market has reached its peak.

This was a situation mirrored around the world, with the French CAC 40 down 2.1pc, while Germany's DAX fell 2.3pc. National indices declined in all 17 western European markets.

In New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average - which fell 141.9 points on Thursday - was 69 points lower at 11431 in afternoon trading...

'course, they could (and quite probably will) bounce back again on Monday - but cheery articles that the worst is over, happy times are here again, etc etc, are wide of the mark. The contradiction between soaring hard primary commodity prices, and flat or even falling manufactured output prices, is becoming pressing.


You know - sorry to go on about this, but hey - the thing I don't fully understand is why the ranks of the pro-war "left" think their Respect-bashing is made more convincing by quoting the BNP in their support. For example:

It is little wonder that after the last general election the BNP itself declared: “The future for British politics is the growth in support and power of the ethno-specific political parties like the BNP, the People’s Justice Party and Respect.”

It's unfair to pick on someone who attempts, in the same piece, to distance himself from Senator Joe McCarthy by providing an apologia for proper "anti-Communist" witch-hunts: it's almost sad when the polemical urge runs ahead of the polemical ability. But you'll recognise the argument. Nick Cohen, a vastly more competent hack, uses the same trick here.

If any member of the Decent Left were to explain, say, historic support for the Communist Party in Jewish areas of East London by reference to Oswald Mosley's deranged beliefs in "ethno-specific" conspiracies, you'd think something was a little amiss. Something not quite right, somewhere - you might think. Why Mosley's successors are currently being paraded as if offering the last word in political analysis is beyond me. I can only assume that once you believe the official fairy stories about Iraq, you'll fall for any damn fool tale that comes your way - regardless of source.

No postings here for over a week. Tsk. Though I did put some stuff here and here.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Ballot fraud (cont.)

Fresh developments:

Last week George Galloway's Respect party claimed cheating was rife there, with blocks of residents falling victim to postal vote fraudsters. Nigel Evans, the Conservative MP for Ribble Valley, yesterday confirmed that he had submitted a complaint to the council about the disappearance of his postal voting form which should have been sent to his flat in the borough but failed to materialise.

His concerns mirrored those of Pennie Clarke, a neighbour and Tory candidate in the election, who has also lost her vote. Ms Clarke, a solicitor, insisted on being allowed to examine the relevant documentation and found that the fraudulent application form submitted to the council had not even been signed. Her partner also found that a postal vote had been requested by third party using his identity. In that case the documentation showed that his signature had been forged.

Ok, so the Tories have complained; Respect have complained; and even Labour have made some noises. Which major party - currently with a councillor on bail for fraud - does that leave, I wonder? Whitechapel seems reasonably clean, though with a few surprising registrations, but it's a different story further east:

Sheikh Masud is a charity worker who lives in the Mile End East ward who has had his vote stolen. “I only found out I was on the postal voting list when I received a letter from the council accepting a registration from me and my wife,” he told Socialist Worker.

“I then discovered the vote had been registered to be sent to some other address to the one I live in, one I’ve never heard of. The same thing happened to my elderly father. I’m so angry – I’d never give consent to anyone to take my right to vote away.”

Masud contacted his local Respect candidate, Jackie Turner, and complained to the council.

Mysteriously, shortly after complaining, an unknown man appeared at his father’s door and handed over the postal ballot forms belonging to Masud and his father.

“If I’d found out who the guy was, I’d have given him a piece of my mind,” says Masud. “My wife’s vote is still missing.”

Respect activists have now collected 33 signed statements from people in Tower Hamlets who have had their votes stolen through a postal vote scam.

In a tower block in Limehouse ward 90 of the 93 residents were registered for postal votes, despite the fact that very few had applied for them.

It's galling to think that concerns about the electoral register were raised, this time last year, during the general election:

At one address owned by Abdus Salique, a local businessman and Labour supporter who recently hosted a lunch for the party's candidate, Oona King, and the London mayor, Ken Livingstone, there are 12 names on the roll.

But when the Guardian visited the premises, a businessman who rents an office in the building said that none of those named lived there.

This is still a remarkably common experience: I've lost count of the number of absent voters we've turned up over the last few weeks. Even without any dirty tricks, Tower Hamlets' election services are a thing of wonder. Yet Christine Gilbert, returning officer (and, naturally, Labour-appointed Chief Executive - oh, and wife of Tony McNulty), has claimed throughout that nothing is amiss.

Still, those that can cast their votes as they wish may cause some surprises:

Lesley Ellis has lived on the Cranbrook estate in the Globe Town area of Bethnal Green for the past 19 years. She drives a black cab for a living, as did her father before her.

She describes herself and her family as “staunch Labour voters” for generations—but no longer. On Thursday 4 May, Lesley will be one of thousands of former Labour supporters in Tower Hamlets switching their allegiance to Respect.

“I first came across Respect when we were fighting the attempts to transfer the Cranbrook estate to a registered social landlord, Swan Housing Group,” says Lesley.

“The council were just going to give away the estate to Swan. We would have had no tenants association as such—we were going to be sold off and the banks were going to own us.

“So we started knocking on people’s doors saying, do you realise you’re going to lose your secured tenancy? We felt we were being pushed into the transfer by the council.

“So from August to December we turned a yes vote into a no. We defeated the transfer in a ballot in December—some 73 percent voted against stock transfer.”

It was this campaign that made Lesley realise what the New Labour council was up to. “There were a lot of dirty tricks from the council,” she says.

“Half the estate didn’t get their ballot papers at first. The council people came round and tried to pull down our notices—but we caught them.

“I’ve always been staunch Labour, but to see this from the council—I just thought that they were betraying us.

“I realised that the reason we weren’t getting the estate done up—repairs, horticultural, things like that—was that the council wanted us to get so fed up that we’d switch to a registered social landlord. But now we were seeing beyond that.

“That’s when I started listening to Respect. I thought these people were ex-Labour, people like us, and they’ve formed a political group that opposes selling off public housing.”

And, whilst you're about it:

George Galloway was down here last Saturday, and lifelong Labour men like Danny Woodards are thinking about voting Respect, who have pledged to save the market. 'I had a bowl of milk waiting for George round the back, mind.' At a public meeting the previous night Woodards had said to Sir Robin Wales: do what you have to do, but retain the council running the market. 'He said they hadn't got the expertise. I said what you think you've been fucking doing the last 120 years?'

Blah blah Muslim party blah blah blah communalism blah blah bloop. Tower Hamlets is 35% Bengali - although you've never guess from "Muslim-dominated" reports - and I, as far as I am aware, there is only one ward with a majority of Bengalis. The demographics are dead against you if you want to run a "communalist" campaign: you can try, but you won't get very far. (The New Labour dodge has been to run two separate communalist campaigns. Very Third Way.)

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

(Nearly) speechless

It's a multimedia crossover blogging - I'm watching the New Labour election broadcast at the same time as writing this. Incredible. Jaw on floor stuff. A succession of bright sparkly images - happy nurses, cute babies, Angel of the North - with subtitles proclaiming all these staggering achievements - SURE START CENTRES OPEN, TWO MILLION FEWER PENSIONERS, ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US - interspersed with a disarmingly naff late-nineties Cool Britannia stylee Union Jack Mini Cooper motif, very brief flashes of Brown, still briefer flashes of Blair. Oh, and a crap soft rock soundtrack telling us, you'll like this bit, "It's getting better all the time," - didn't recognise it, sort of Oasis without the charm, marginally less subtle than the D:Ream track it's supposed to remind us of, it's like being slapped in the face with a wet Prescott - anyway, said unrecognisable MOR tune included the lyric, "No matter what they say"... precisely the problem, for all I know the near-subliminal achievement flashes may all be perfectly true and fair and accurate but still no-one will believe this shower any more. Grrr.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Right opinions of dead men

J.K. Galbraith's popped his clogs. (Why do economists always last so long?)

Obituary here. I notice Galbraith's attracted a little encomium from Prudence:

"I enjoyed meeting him in both the UK and America and welcomed his interest in our country and its future," Mr Brown said. "Even in recent years in his 90s he was never slow to give me and others advice, and he will be remembered for his erudition, his wit and eloquence, and particularly for his economic insights into our age."

I should hope he was "never slow to give me and others advice". Pity Brown never bothered paying much attention to it. Here's Galbraith on Bush (PDF), and here he is on Iraq.