Monday 30 March 2015

First day of the rest of my life

Passing from the dead world to the real world was painless. After a last week of last meetings and last letters in which MPdom slid quietly to a close, the patient awoke on Monday morning full of beans and eager to embark on his new life.If only he could discover what it is.
There's nothing so ex as an ex MP busy dong nothing  working every day trying to find lots of things not to so but the weight of duty has slipped away, along with the guilty feelings of not letting anyone down fulfilling that responsibility attending this meeting and best of all  no need to go to bloody London and back every week. 

It's marvellous.But less so for my brilliant staff who've got to clear up the work of 38 years tackle the problems still coming in even though there's no MP any longer, and unless my successor keeps them in and uses their knowledge and experience to serve Grimsby they're out of work in a town where good jobs are hard to come by.


There are lots of things the parties won't tell you for fear of frightening you but the two biggest things hidden are cuts and borrowing. The Tories will have to make massive cuts in spending to achieve the goals they set in 2010 but put back to 2020 because they failed to reach the. In 2015. But they won't tell you what benefits will have to be cut though both the Office of Budget Responsibility  and the IFS say that they will have to be bigger and harsher than the painful cuts already made.Nor will they tell y ou exactly how much they'll cut  because the total must now be higher given the fact that the fall in tax revenues caused by the first lot of cuts and the increase in spending made necessary by economic misery.

As for Labour they've very sensibly said that the reduction in borrowing they aim to achieve by 2020 won't include borrowing for investment and to rebuild Britain's creeping infrastructure (something which must include public housing for rent) and the IFS estimates that as a £30 billion increase in borrowing. That's not enough in my view but it makes sense to borrow and spend in what is a prolonged recession. Labour doesn't accept this estimate. It should because it's true but more because we should take pride in it. The only way to get the economy moving is to borrow and spend.Why don't we proclaim this and  shout "Let's Grow With Labour"


My successor as MP for Grimsby Melanie Onn  is campaigning  brilliantly and raising more money than even Jack Straw could.I'm delighted that at last Grimsby is getting the money and the attention from the party that it's never had since 1979

But it's overkill. Melanie going to win Grimsby and UKIP isn't going to be the threat it proclaims itself to be. No use fearing bogeymen or women. The key seats to win are the two real marginals surrounding Grimsby, Cleethorpes and Brigg and Goole both of which we held up to 2010 and must win if we're to form a majority government .

To divert money, party workers and regional and trade union support from these two crucial seats to a Grimsby which will stay loyal to Labour is,to coin a phrase, DAFT
Aim to win not to hold.

Corporate Welfare is Fuelling Austerity by Prem Sikka

Prem Sikka
Professor of Accounting, University of Essex

Austerity cuts are an ideological project pursued by the Tories as they have become obsessed with strangling people’s hard won social rights. There is no economic justification for this. HMRC admits  that each year around £34 billion of tax is evaded, avoided or not collected. A former World Bank adviser  has estimated it to be around £100 billion a year. Some critics estimate the gap to be around £120 billion a year. The absence of any effective policy on chasing big tax avoiders enables corporations to declare huge profits and leaves people facing austerity cuts.

The government is dedicated to guaranteeing corporate profits. Studies estimate that around £85 billion a year is being given away in subsidies. In addition, the National Health Service, education, prisons and other public services are being privatised by stealth. Since 2010, the Con-Lib government has outsourced £88 billion worth of public contracts. About 25% of all money is creamed-off as profits, leaving less for actual expenditure.

Here are some examples of how the huge corporate welfare programme boosts corporate profits. The railways were privatised in 1996, but have received annual subsidy of £4-£5 billion each year. In 2012, the European Union provided €83bn (£70bn) in support of agricultural producers, about 19% of the total farm receipts. Over the years Tate & Lyle, a sugar refiner, has received €830m even though it does not own any farms. Nestle has collected €93m. Others include Haribo, the sweet manufacturer; Groupe Doux, a French chicken processor, which does not raise poultry; Coca-Cola, the Duke of Westminster, the UK Royal family and the Catholic Church.In 2012, the European Union provided €83bn (£70bn) in support of agricultural producers, about 19% of the total farm receipts. Over the years Tate & Lyle, a sugar refiner, has received €830m even though it does not own any farms. Nestle has collected €93m. Others include Haribo, the sweet manufacturer; Groupe Doux, a French chicken processor, which does not raise poultry; Coca-Cola, the Duke of Westminster, the UK Royal family and the Catholic Church.

In 2012, the European Union provided €83bn (£70bn) in support of agricultural producers, about 19% of the total farm receipts. Over the years Tate & Lyle, a sugar refiner, has received €830m even though it does not own any farms. Nestle has collected €93m. Others include Haribo, the sweet manufacturer; Groupe Doux, a French chicken processor, which does not raise poultry; Coca-Cola, the Duke of Westminster, the UK Royal family and the Catholic ChurchUnder the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) companies borrow money to build the project and then lease the assets to the government at exorbitant prices.  Currently, companies have invested some £54.7 billion but will receive £247 billion over the next 25-30 years. The profit of £200 billion won’t fully get taxed in the UK, as many projects are run from offshore tax havens.

The EU has provided €83billion (£70billion) in farm subsidies. Sugar refiner Tate & Lyle has collected €830million even though it does not own any farms. Nestle have collected €93million. The Queen's Sandringham estate has collected £7million. Others include Haribo, the sweet manufacturer; Coca-Cola, the Duke of Westminster and the Roman Catholic Church.

Last year, BT received a subsidy of £1.2 billion, and more is on the way, to provide broadband for rural areas. BT will also keep the resulting assets and future income.

Energy companies make exorbitant profits, but still get subsidies. EDF and its partners are set to receive £16 billion subsidy for building a nuclear power plant to generate electricity even though this investment is projected to provide a return of up to 21%.

Lotus, the sports car manufacturer, has received £10 billion subsidy. The price of a Porsche selling at £90,000 is reduced by £5,000, thanks to a subsidy from the taxpayer.

Walt Disney is not a Mickey-Mouse company, but over the last seven years it has received subsidies of £215 million for making highly profitable films in the UK. Of course, the company keeps all the resulting revenues.

The above is the tip of a giant corporate welfare iceberg. Corporations fund political parties and get compliant laws and barrow loads of money. This giveaway leads to higher taxes and reduces resources for social investment. If government must support companies, it must be as returnable loans or equity stake in companies, rather than as giveaways.

Sunday 29 March 2015


This election is going to be influenced, not decided by divergent nationalisms within the UK.Scottish nationalism is destabilising everything. South Western nationalism should still shore up the Lib Dems and Welsh nationalism will make gains but not many. Then there's the fat complacent nationalism of the comfortable SoUth East divided only by London's pools of poverty

Yet in all this babble of accents and attitudes the nationalism of the North is strangely silent. Why?The north's problems are much the same as Scotland's-the death of basic industries, the decline of manufacturing (always an out of London activity) the drain to London, yet Scotland gets far more help support and spending than the North and is doing more to improve its own lot.

Does the North get a fair deal? Hell no!! Our safe seats are used to provide a firm base for national leaders : Osborne and Hague,Miliband and Balls to pursue policies favourable to the south. Our other seats are filled by apparatchiks and chaps or loyal back benchers who vote these policies through. We're fobbed off with baubles like HS2 or the Northern Powerhouse while all the big spending goes to London.We don't even get the same benefits from the recovery as the Fat South.

The government's entire economic strategy is based on helping the rich on the grounds that the benefit will trickle down to the poor in the same way as horses trickle down on the road. It doesn't work of course because the rich use their bonus to spend more time on the golf course or buy bigger German cars and there's certainly no trickle up effect from all the benefits showered on the fat South where most of the rich live. All that trickles up (a difficult feat in itself) is ever higher house prices  to levels that on our lower wages we can't afford.

Why the hell do we put up with it? Do we have to grow our own Northern Nationalist Party to disrupt the southern dominance as the Scots have done? We should demand that all northern MPs commit to a better deal and devolution to the North  so that we can assert the same leverage and power Scotland has.The North deserves a better  deal in return for its long loyalty. Has it had a fair deal? Hell No!

A nice supplement in the Grimsby Telegraph looking back at my 38 years representing the best constituency in the country is promptly followed, Grimsby style, by 13 comments  asking " what's he ever done for us"(WHEDFU) the question which is being asked of candidates all over the country but is asked more loudly in Grimsby partly because folk are more direct but mainly because  we've had fewer favours from government than the big cities or the south generally.

However it has to be answered and I am now preparing an 84 page supplement setting out the answers and featuring some of the "thank you" letters from some of the many thousands I've helped over the years. The angry correspondents will get a special illustrated and illuminated copy written in calligraphy on parchment  to hang on their walls. If only they'd given their names and addresses so I can send it round by Pickfords.

Saturday 28 March 2015

Day in the life of an almost XMP.


Just helped to launch Labour's campaign for Louth and Horncastle with the adoption of Matt Brown our candidate to succeed Sir Peter Tapsell. Excellent speech by Matt to Labour Party which is like Labour parties used to be and should be. Intelligent, serious, concerned and loyal and more interested in policy and what Labour needs to do than in apportioning blocks for canvassing and ordering people out into the streets.A really uplifting experience.

Good luck Matt. Louth needs a change because Tory towns tend to get neglect ed suffering from the run down of health and social services and a hostility to development.Difficult to win but we need to boost the vote there as everywhere and give the people of Louth hope that better times lie ahead.

Puzzled by the hostility to Nicola Sturgeon and Alec Salmond whore being attacked as if they were BRITISH Jihadis  or aliens who have no right to say anything South of the border.
It's damn stupid on  the one hand they're accused of being wreckers and vandals determined to wreck the British constitution  but on the other if they say anything about BRITISH politics and government they're denounced.

Let's be clear.The number of SNP MPs will increase.Whether they support or oppose either of the two governing parties in government is up to them and if neither has a majority they've a perfect right to join a coalition or give it whatever form of support they want and to ask for concessions in return.

What the LibDems did in 2010 the SNP can do in 2015 and and a party leader who rejects their support in advance or says will not deal deserves to fail. Like it or not  we're in multi party politics now and it's up to the major parties to accept that smaller parties can have purer principles  but at the end of the day deals will have to be done and leaders should think about them now.

Power is more important than the implementation of the full majesty and beauty of the manifesto or the purity of our implementable principles.
Loved the Internet joke that OPAS had examined Richard III and found that he was fit for light work or driving a fork lift.Perhaps UKIP can select him to replace on of the candidates they keep firing. In Yorkshire of course.

Who's going to be the first smart Alec commentator to say the campaign hasn't been launched yet but I'm bored already?

Won't put the Mitchell clocks back tonite. I don't want to lose an hour of my last day as  Member of Parliament. Totally unfair.

Friday 27 March 2015

The faux debate. Sweep away the judges and let us decide

The older generation of Brits, having been brought up to discipline like strong leadership which the interpret as leadership which is strong in favouring them.The younger generation, products of a different schooling prefer the whatever style of leadership: cool and anything goes.

Both have to be gratified because politics has become more presidential. The leader is the party and people relate to him or her rather than to the whole range of party policies.That's too complicated where judgement on a person is easy.

So party managers strive to give their leader a good bloke (or blokes )image. Don't let them say too much, they'll only incriminate themselves but show them in kitchens, playing with kids (but not touching) beating the shit out of some pathetic tennis player or pretending to be workers in hard hats and project the image of a good bloke to chat to in a pub-though in fact being politicians they'll probably bore you to death.

The role of leadership debates on television is to cut through all that crap, lock simpering wives up in a box and show brains working.Which is exactly why CAMERON has set out to avoid them  because he's too slick and too prone to reel out his achievements in getting the economy growing slightly after four years of clobbering it. He doesn't want the long playing record interrupted or the needle jolted in its track and he knows that Miliband would be able to do that where he can just talk over a more deferential interviewer. Or walk off on another track. Brilliant at reeling off statistics and half truths he's less good at real debate where the answers have to be thought about .

So what last night's pathetic substitute  for a head to head debate showed was the slick salesman and the serious politician whose thought his policies through rather than just reading them off some research department list..CAMERON is a brilliant PR man for a clumsy prejudiced government. Miliband is a serious thinker trying to develop policies which will work and hold a fractious party together.

One is at the top of his PR tree and with the economic recovery has something to say. The other has grown and is smart enough to show that the promises and projections  don't add up -Which is why Cameron won't face him in a head to head and why last night's substitute was such a failure. Predictable pat- ball questions from an audience and Paxman playing the stern recording angel constantly interrupting to show how clever he was just didn't do enough to test the men and set brains working .

But it did enough to show that Miliband thinks about his answers Cameron is more of a long playing record,one has guts the other talks about them and one faces up to the difficulties ahead while the other makes promises about them. The one striking conclusion is that we need a head to head to decide. Sweep away the presenters let us judge the battle.

Tuesday 24 March 2015


Is Cameron loosing his grip? The  Big Cobber Crosby  must be bashing his bush hat as his boss the master of PR and related trades staggers from one pre-election clanger to another.First we have the big mistake of refusing to take part in leader debates unless they're crowd spectaculars featuring everyone and their dogs. Can't spend years denouncing Milliband then showing you're scared to face him in debates.

Then we have the mysterious  leak at the week end that a Tory group is organising to save Cameron for the nation and the Tory Party when he's defeated on 7 May. That goes a long way to demonstrate confidence.

Finally comes his own announcement (made in his third kitchen) that he'll only serve one more term apparently cancelling his earlier plan to go when he can't get better terms from the EU so as to fulfil his plot to keep Britain in the EU..That won't silence his Tory critics who find him too clever by half or the alternative leaders who'll face a last minute transfer of power when they'd all prefer a longer run in.

The only explanation must be that he's rattled because he's having to eat too many words and make too many concessions to UKIP to keep his unruly mob going.I don't know what's behind all this because I'm no expert in abnormal psychology but it does make  the Conservative argument that they offer strong leadership and stability look pretty daft and make Labour's strong leadership look even more attractive.

Friday 20 March 2015


George Osborne is the most promising Chancellor ever. He made huge promises in 2010 to pay off Britain's debt and get rid of its fiscal deficit. He failed to keep them so he's now put them back five years to 2020.  Then he says Britain will be a land of high wages and full employment. 

It`s unbelievable. He`s living in Cloud Cuckoo Land.  George claims that the economic recovery is the result of "the Government's long term economic plan." Total balls. There never was a long term plan except roll back the state and cut benefits to allow tax cuts for the rich which would trickle down to the people.  Much as horses trickle manure onto roads. 

The Conservative Party is the trade union of the rich.  So we`ve had five years of cutting their taxes, boosting their bonuses and salaries while holding back the wages of the rest.

It hasn`t worked.  Recovery came only because the Bank of England kept interest rates flat to the floor for six years and printed £375 billion of money. The cuts and excessive austerity actually made recovery slower by slashing demand and cutting tax revenues.

George's policies have wasted four years, cut wages and reduced household incomes to turn us into a low wage, casual employment economy with millions pushed into self-employment and 1.86 million out of work.  It`s prettied up by rocketing house prices, an overvalued pound to make imports cheap and lower fuel and food prices.  But it still leaves most people worse off.

Manufacturing hasn't grown.  Investment, particularly public investment in infrastructure, is low, as is productivity.  Tax receipts are lower because wages are low.  We can`t even pay our way in the World.

We import 6% of GDP, more than we can pay for.  That means that every year we must sell firms, houses, land and assets to foreigners just to survive. The Chancellor assumes that that gap will close.  With the pound high, the euro much lower and exports beginning to suffer, it won't.  So we`ll be colonised by foreigners owning our utilities, our trains, our productive industry, our housing and our farms.

The net effect of this Tory government's failure to fulfil its promises will be massive cuts in public spending in Welfare, cuts in Defence, cuts in Social Services and more cuts in Local Government and its services.

That gloomy prospect is inevitable unless we get a Labour government which invests, which puts our people back to work and taxes the rich more and the people less.  We need Labour to regulate the private rented sector to build more social and council housing for people who can't afford to buy, to create more apprenticeships and boost the minimum wage so that demand and living standards pick up.

After five years of failure, Britain needs a government to tilt the balance of power back from wealth to the people.  Government by the rich, for the rich, doesn't work.  Time now to give power to the people and improve their lot by creating jobs, raising pay, building houses and investing in their future rather than pouring money into the over-full pockets of the rich.

Thursday 19 March 2015

Who’s Wins from the Crisis in Greece?

When the crisis began in 2010, Greek politicians bemoaned a Greek public that is loath to pay taxes.  What they didn’t want to tell everyone, is that the government lets the public get away with this by design.  The complaint by the Greek politicians had a cleverly devised purpose, to deflect attention from the politicians, by portraying the Greek public as an unruly lot.
The logic goes as follows: a Greek public that doesn’t pay taxes, has limited standing to complain when government officials mismanage funds and projects.  High within the professional ranks, doctors, lawyers, builders, architects etc… have been known to underreport earnings.  As a result, they must tread very carefully in acting to correct any flaw in the system, lest they be subject to tax inspections (a routine retaliatory action).  For those paying full taxes, they may be denied licensing, permits, or be subject to a varied number of other retaliatory actions, if they don’t play by the unwritten ground rules. 
On the tax office front, there had been numerous reports of tax officials offering to significantly reduce a company’s tax bill in return for a “fakeliki”, which translates into little envelope, one that contains cash.  A win-win for everyone but the underfunded government. 
On to the crisis.  Upon becoming a member of the Euro zone, the Greek government literally capitalised on the imprimatur of the European Central Bank by selling massive amounts of Greek government bonds denominated in the newly minted Euro (a windfall event that allowed the Government to expand a government budget rife with “missing” or “unaccounted for” funds - without having to ask the Greek public to raise more taxes).  The Greek public, which widely believes the Greek government pilfers a large percentage of their tax payments, would not have tolerated such a budget expansion through increased taxes, so Euro denominated bonds fit the bill.  Thus began a golden age for all involved in the Greek government and its administration.  There were seemingly endless funds to go around! 
As is human nature, regardless of what country you look at, people tend to take a good thing too far.  The day of reckoning came in 2010, when the Greek government had to admit that the government had concealed a significant amount of debt.
Thus began the second wave in the grand abuse of the Greek public by their own government.  As the Greek bond well ran dry, Greek politicians exploited their Euro zone membership for a second time; this time by scare mongering the Greek public into paying unsustainable taxes, lest their European world come to an end.  Instead, their economic world came to an end.
Here Greek officials, who their constituents frequently describe as self-serving, had to choose the lesser of two evils, save themselves, or save the public they are entrusted to protect.  They chose to save themselves.  Thus when acceding to European demands to balance their budget, in return for a European rescue package, they chose to tax the private sector economy into oblivion, instead of applying badly needed cuts to a bloated, inefficient, and frequently corrupt bureaucracy that produced comparatively little and spent much.
For their part, European politicians clearly had two items on their agenda, save the European financiers, who like the Greek government, couldn’t get enough of the Greek government bond game; and save face with their electorate.  So they too sacrificed the Greek public.  Instead of insisting that the Greek officials immediately cut back a bloated and inefficient government sector in order to balance the budget, they allowed the Greeks to impose onerous taxes instead, which led to the widely predicted collapse of the Greek private sector economy.  Obviously tax receipts collapsed along with the economy. 
Ironically, European taxpayers essentially paid to initiate the collapse of the Greek economy, which would then necessitate more bailouts, so they could pay for even more bailouts.  The key question is: why was the Euro designed with so little audit oversight of individual Eurozone member countries?  If all countries fates are linked by a common currency, there should have been a commensurate expansion of trans-national audit structures within the Eurozone.  This is the little lie being hidden by the large core Eurozone member countries - they messed up on oversight structures when forming the Eurozone.  It isn’t what the Greek government did to get into the Eurozone that is at the heart of the problem, it’s what they did after they got in. 
Talk to Greeks on the street of Athens, and many will tell you that their government is not a trusted entity, that there is a widespread absence of accountability, that their government is rife with corruption, nepotism and favouritism.  The core Eurozone countries, in their zeal to expand, failed to do their homework before initiating their grand Euro plan.  When the bottom finally dropped out, Europe placed the load on the Greek electorate, instead of where it belongs – the professional European bankers who should have known what the Greek public knows - you can’t completely trust the Greek government, and should be very careful with Greek government bonds.  As a consequence, a large swath of the Greek middle class are watching their life savings wither away, so that we can rescue the European financiers who facilitated these massive bond sales out of sight of the Greek public.  In yet another irony, while much of the Greek public may have avoided Greek government bonds, they now have to pay for huge bond losses. 
What is it that the troika (aka “the institutions”) didn’t bother to find out?  Greece is the equivalent of Britain’s elected dictatorship combined with widespread institutional malfeasance – the Greek people never controlled their public institutions, and in many cases prefer to avoid them.  While the public is free to riot, say just about anything they want, and dodge taxes, Greek politicians have learned that by allowing such freedom of speech, assembly, and tax avoidance, and by using methods of soft-retribution (such as tax inspections, denial of licensing, permits, etc…), they gained a lock-grip on the structure of public institutions; hence the painfully slow progress Greece is making in reforming its public institutions.  Greek politicos have become masters in the art of diplomacy, pretending to be sheep when they are wolves, outwitting many a counterparty - if only this talent had been applied to a more noble cause.
I frequently hear how the Greek public have sacrificed in order to make the rescue work, but seldom hear how.  To start, home heating oil prices have nearly doubled, in large part due to new taxes, with many apartment buildings no longer running their centralised heating systems.  Electric bills have nearly doubled, so that those heating their homes with a/c units and electric heaters don’t get left out of the tax game.  VAT has been raised to 23% and income taxes are paid from the first Euro earned, thereby hitting the poorest with a heavy tax burden.  Property taxes have escalated up to five fold in a few short years, and to make it worse, beginning in 2012/2013 the Government issued 6 years of these new property tax bills in just under 24 months, using 2007 peak market assessed property valuations to base these taxes on (generally double to triple current market values). 
Criminal prosecution is now being threatened against those not earning enough to pay these new property taxes (think 30% vacancy rate if you bought to let, and a large percentage of tenants not paying rent).  Pressured by the Troika to collect taxes, the Greek government is not content to confiscate property that has been rendered virtually worthless, so it is now resorting to extortion by threatening criminal prosecution.  Sad thing is, Greek property owners are being punished for their prudence, as mortgage levels are well below those of many western economies, and there was no property bubble.  Erratic and frequently changing tax policy, combined with uncontrolled government spending, devastated the Greek property market.  As the economy continued its rapid decline, things just got worse.  The asset base of the Greeks, who largely saved according to the national tradition of accumulating property, has been largely wiped out.  Exactly the opposite of the U.K. and U.S policy of reflating property prices in the wake of the great recession.  With such severely reduced per-capita net worth, it is difficult to forecast a meaningful recovery.
This is the start of a long list of problems, which includes an infamously corrupt and slow judicial system, poor public hospital services where doctors have been reported to demand bribes in order to conduct surgeries, bad schools, and the list goes on and on.
Amazingly the Greek people have remained relatively sanguine through all this abuse.  Imagine what you would do if so many of your taxes increased so dramatically, and then your council taxes went up 5 fold, and you were issued 6 years of these taxes in under 2 years, because the government couldn’t get around to issuing the new council tax bills on time (for “technical reasons” – or possibly for the convenience of issuing retroactive taxes designed to fit the deficit) all in the middle of a staggering depression – lets please tell the truth, this is not a recession.
So to answer the question in the title, the Greek officials completely got the upper hand, they are the winners.  The bureaucrats still have their jobs, nepotism and favouritism survive, and accountability is amazingly low – the hallmarks of an elected dictatorship gone awry.  In contrast, one can only imagine that if one were to break-down the 25% Greek unemployment rate into private sector unemployment and public sector unemployment, that it might look something like public sector unemployment 5%, private sector unemployment 40%.  Job security is a good thing, but what has happened in Greece is dangerously unbalanced.
In the other corner, Eurozone politicians have come out looking like fools, and their electorate are frustrated at being ask to perpetually bankroll a failing Greek state.  As a result of failed European economic policy over Greece, other Europeans citizens now have guilt where they should have none, thanks to the failings of their own politicians - both for falling victim to the machinations of the Greek politicians, and for being careless and overzealous in launching the Euro.
Yet it is not neither the European taxpayer or politician who pays the real price for these serious missteps, it is the Greek public that is getting wiped out, while the Greek bureaucracy remains largely intact, secure, inefficient and unaccountable.  I hope the moral to this story is not “go into public service and serve yourself instead”, but it may well turn out that way in Greece.
Now, the country’s capital, Athens, is beginning to depopulate, and to make things worse, there is a damaging exodus of young talent which not only limits future growth potential, but threatens a downward spiral economic spiral akin to the decline of Detroit (Detroit recently filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history).
Taxes must drop back to normal levels for the Greek economy to mend (as the U.S. recovery clearly exemplified), or there will be no end to the economic crisis in Greece.  Yes, Greek tax revenues will temporarily drop, but Eurozone politicians only have themselves to blame for their failed Greek policies, and they should have bothered to do the necessary groundwork before embarking on their Euro odyssey.
Once the Greek economy mends, higher tax revenues will come, and the Greeks will pay their national debt, provided that it is responsibly rescheduled.  If both Greek and European politicians work together to ensure that the Greek public sector is truly reformed, something good may come of this seemingly endless mess.  We would hope this of the new Greek government, but the recent raising of pay for public sector utility workers, at the expense of all the unemployed private sector workers, reeks of self-promotion.  Furthermore, demanding war reparations from the Germans (while an understandable popular reaction to the Troika’s misguided austerity demands and failed economic policies) is a destructive political move on the part of Greek politicians, who should know better than to add fuel to the fire of the Greek public’s anger. 

So fear for Greece, and fear for Europe.  For as long as Eurozone leaders fail to accept that taxes in Greece must be lowered, that lower government revenues must be tolerated for a few years; and for as long as Greek politicians fail take to substantive actions to reform and streamline their government institutions, there will be no agreement between the Troika (“the institutions”) and the new Greek government; no end in sight to the decline in Greece.  Both sides must act in concert, or we may well bear unwilling witness to a modern Greek tragedy.

Wednesday 18 March 2015


Budget day is the culmination of phase three of the Osborne master plan for Tory victory. Phase one was the harsh cuts and austerity-painful but blame it on Labour. Phase two the recognition that they weren't going to meet their target of getting rid of the debt in one Parliament without crippling the country. So they resolved to spread the process out over two parliaments to ease the pain.

Phase three is a few months of economic window dressing of which the budget will be a part. Spend and invest on a scale you've previously said is impossible and disastrous. Cut taxes a bit though you've been saying you can't. Add in a few give always particularly to oldies and let them spend their pension pots to produce a great out pouring of dosh to make everyone feel better.

Then win the election and begin to grind the faces of the poor even more harshly by the massive cuts in welfare and spending that you've warned them about but which they'd never really believed  you'd be daft enough to do.Then when Labour complains you can tell them that that's what the people have voted for Phase four might be even more miserable than one and two but who cares. The Tories will have won and can roll back the state and give the tax cuts their rich friends have been clamouring for

So today will be fascinating because the scale of the giveaways will tell us just how panicked Osborne is. My view is that he believes they can win so there's no need to give too much away. But we'll see.


We're living through the second age of baronial power. In the first the barons had enormous power, They had armies and controlled the use of force. They didn't pay taxes.Their tenants owed them various duties and rents.

Now we have the new barons in banks, big accountancy houses, rich hedges and powerful utilities all too big to control who can enforce their will on people who are largely unprotected because no regulator is strong enough to deal with them.

Their power has increased, is increasing, and must be diminished if we're to build a fair society.The Tomlinson report showed how one of them, RBS, has been stealing companies and I've been taking up another in the way Price Waterhouse and Lloyds treated Premier Motor auctions in Leeds.

The general Counsel of PWC has told me off for this naughtiness "You  believe that Parliament has a role to play in resolving a dispute such as this. I do not agree with this view . The courts are the ultimate and appropriate forum in which to resolve disputes of fact and interpretation of law."

In other words don't go whimpering to parliament if we behave badly and take your company away from you. Sue us and our highly paid and highly skilled team of lawyers will clobber you in the courts to teach you not to  criticise us again. Size rules. Not OK.We must regulate to tilt the odds against such enormous concentration of power and give the small person and the small company more strength to fight the big bully boys.

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Goodbye to Austin, by John Mills

            It has been a huge privilege to work with Austin over the last 35 years. 35 years! I have lost count of how many pamphlets, bulletins and tracts we have written together – always with a few problems about Austin’s jokes – but never with any disagreement about what their policy thrust should be. On the major issues with which we have been concerned – economic policy and what is now the European Union – we have moved in unison throughout the years.

            Has anyone been listening to us? Some of the time, it seemed not. However sure we were that basically we were right in what we were advocating, what we had to say was not usually very fashionable and mostly went against the grain of conventional wisdom. But there were some victories, especially when viewed in retrospect. We campaigned against the Labour Party supporting monetarist policies in the 1980s and they duly fell out of fashion at least in their more extreme form. We fought against Britain joining the Exchange Rate Mechanism and we were surely proved right when we were summarily ejected in 1992. We steadfastly opposed Britain getting further embroiled with the European Union as successive treaties bound us more and more closely to “ever closer union”. We campaigned against the UK joining the euro in the 2000s and maybe the arguments we advanced at the time contributed to our not becoming part of the Single Currency. Since the crash we have opposed the austerity policies which have led to no increase in living standards for most people now for eight years – from 2007 to 2015.

                        Getting all this done required teamwork. Generally, it was my role to do donkey work, digging out the statistics and producing the drafts. It was Austin’s role, as an MP, to do whatever he could to bring them to parliamentary attention. Our vehicles for getting publications produced were a whole series of campaigning organisations which we set up – starting with the Labour Common Market Safeguards Committee which morphed into the Labour Euro-Safeguards Campaign.  Then there was the Labour Economic Policy Group. This was followed by the People’s Pledge and the Pound Campaign. Somewhere in the middle was the Exchange Rate Reform Group. All had the same characteristics – a restless determination, however, unfashionable, either to try to find ways to get the economy to perform better or to get our relationship with the EU on a more even keel – or both!

            But now, Austin is leaving us. A very loyal and steadfast friend will no longer be in the House to push ideas forward. Luckily, we do have some other really good people in parliament who I am sure will help to keep the flag flying, so all is not lost. But some of the fun will go – not least those jokes which I always tried tactfully to edit out but which Austin enjoyed so much that he insisted on them staying in. An era is passing and it will never be quite the same again.

Monday 16 March 2015

Message from Karl Turner "Mitchell guilty but insane"

Message from Karl Turner in Hull :15 March 3-00 after my suggestion that the Tories would introduce a spare toilet tax. 

You're a joke Austin. It's very sad to see it but it's becoming increasingly apparent. You think it clever to attack us. It's not clever and you've had plenty out of the Party. Stop attacking us. I am reluctant to pull you up publicly because you love the attention so very much. If you can't say anything supportive just keep your opinion to yourself. We need to retain Grimsby. You've done little to help with that. And I doubt you've ever had a kitchen in Grimsby. Mili has one in Donny and mines massive in East Hull. Thanks.

Karl Turner is the MP for Hull East, Shadow Solicitor General and Tweet censor.

The Great Business Con

Those who beset us round
With dismal stories
If they manage to confound
Their strength the more is
Paraphrased from the hymn To be a Grim Pill. The trick these dismal dealers hope to pull is to make Labour combine middle class voters and business  as if they were the same thing and both of them terrified and repelled by any symptom of radicalism or socialism. So when they say Labour must be more friendly to business they mean that we mustn't frighten the middle classes. It's back to Blairism: the belief that we can't win by appealing to the working class but must reach up the social scale.

It just ain't true. Business is not one great common block clamouring for tax cuts and de-regulation. Middle class is not another block being divided between the altruistic and the greedy.And their interests don't lie together. In fact insofar as people feel oppressed and done down by big banks overcharging utilities tax cheating multi nationals and  greedy self enriching directors the middle class are more angry about cheating.capitalism than the workers who're inured to the excesses of predatory capitalism and never experienced anything better.

Cameron's achievement has been to weld the classes together against his Neo-liberal world and to build support for Milliband's critique of over-charging utilities,excessive pay and bonuses,brutal banks,inefficient railways and all the business tax cheats facilitated by the big four accountancy houses.The enemy is scale,crushing workers 
And increasingly, angering the better off,  treating customers like cattle and frustrating everyone.That's the reason why so many are fed up and feel they're not being heard, listened to or respected in a brutal world of clumsy monoliths determined to screw all they can out of the people. In a world of the Greedy over rich and a Conservative party which now acts as their protective society the majority stand without.

All classes have a nobler vision of their country. It's time to do better and cut things down to human scale

Sunday 15 March 2015

Into the trenches


Most elections present a clear choice-throw the bastards out or keep 'em-and a foreseeable result.Not this. It's a bloody war which may well be over by Christmas (2015) but won't be by 8 May,no predictions for a clear result and every indication that it will be a 1914-18 style  deadlock across a bloody, corpse littered battleground.

The kitchen clash is a warning of the massive bombardment to come. The Tories will have the biggest bombardment from the cobbler's clobbering batteries because they've got by far the most money. Labour will be stronger on the ground because they haven't got the money for professionals or big bangs so they're forced to rely on door to door fighting by party members while the Tory media will be spraying the field with their own blend of poison gasses.

All very First World War and like that fight to the death it's likely to end in a bloody stalemate with no winner and some kind of treaty to be cobbled together with all the small nations.It's a dreadful prospect and the end of the two party democracy we've had since the war.. I still believe in it. I still think it's the best system around. But the electorate has lost both faith and belief in it.


As it becomes clear that no one is likely to win the coming election so we're going to end u in dirty deal territory everyone should shut up about what particular deal they want, who should shack up with whom and on what terms they should co-habit. With whom. The politicians have lost the power to make those decisions by running things so badly and failing to deliver the well being people want that they've produced alienation on such a scale as to make the two party alternation unworkable.

All those decisions have been handed to the people and at the end of the day-8 May it's up to the politicians to make whatever scion they give us workable.If that requires a period without a government and a long running circus on College Green, then so be it. It might even prove enjoyable to be wIthout any government for a time and will certainly be an education in democracy.

So Cameron and all those Tories who don't want Labour to have any form of int recourse with the SNP,all those Lib-Dems who're picky about why their pathetic rump  should go to bed with and all those Labour folk who say they'll wreck any deal with the SNP should just shut up and see what the people tell them to do. Once the campaign begins neither politicians nor parties rule any longer. The people have power and they're getting awkward. 


Labour's 1997 pledge card setting out a series of small promises to improve the lot of the people was a brilliant idea.The one that's emerging now is crap.

Vague pledges to balance the budget pay down the debt or make life better are useless. No me believes them and delivery can't be verified. We should keep the focus on the bread and butter issues and the unnecessary costs imposed on the people. That means specific promises it airy fairy promises of virtue, clean living and regular brushing of teeth.The pledge card is to prove ourselves effective not show how virtuous we want to be

To be effective the pledge card should offer smaller class sizes, more doctors and nurses, more public housing for rent, controls to lower rents  and give security, reduction of utility charges .That's what people care about and that's what will win.They don't care two stuffs about balancing the budget or paying down the debt.Nor should we


Next week: Sarah Vine on Miliband's lavatory. does he have two? Are they clean? Does he read Marx in them? 

Saturday 14 March 2015

Letter from Austin Mitchell to Public Accounts Clerk

This is my letter to the Clerk to Public Accounts Committee

Dear Sarah

Thank you for your letter.  As you'll know I've refrained rigorously from making statements about the committee`s proceedings and never attempted to revive the habit which we had up to 2010 of a committee press officer pushing us on to local media and Armed Forces media to comment on committee reports

I am deeply shocked that someone has had the vicious effrontery to accuse Conservative members of the Public Accounts Committee of supporting the government's wishes that Lord Green should not appear before select committees.   This can only be a politically motivated attempt to embarrass Conservative members before the General Election.

I cannot explain how a leak of the committee's discussions on 11 and 23 February came about but I am happy to report to you that it was not through me.  Indeed I couldn't even leak them now because I don't know what they were.  I didn't realise that we had taken any decisions on either of those two days. You'll realise that being a little deaf I don't always hear the full purport of discussions before the sound loop is switched on for our formal hearings.

I can tell you that I spoke to a reporter from the Guardian after our meeting on Monday and gave him my own view, which I had expressed in committee (being able to hear myself) and in a letter to Margaret, that Green should be called.  I also said that Conservative members of the committee were against the idea. 

If this was a little incautious, because they do not wish their views to be known, then I can only make my humble apologies to them for any embarrassment caused.  But I would point out that such a report is an individual observation not a leak of committee proceedings of the type which you and, I assume, the Clerk to the Treasury Committee are remorselessly hunting down.  Be stern and rigorous.  The reputation of both committees depends on your efforts.  I can`t emphasise enough how important it is that that reputation should not be reduced to ridicule.  We need a stern sense of proportion and a purposeful drive to clean out this Aegean stable.

Yours sincerely


Thursday 12 March 2015


The chief executive of HSBC and the Chair of its audit committee had a hard time before the Public Accounts committee. Particularly from Margaret Hodge and Stephen Phillips. Their excuse for not stopping the money laundering for drug dealers and the other offences for which they'd been fined $1.9 billion and  for facilitating tax evasion through their Swiss private bank was that they didn't know what was going on.

That means that they were drawing their enormous performance pay and bonuses (boosted of course by the profits of crime) under false pretences or that they're incompetent. In fact of course this bank and most of the others is too big to manage or audit or control. It should be broken up but it's also too big for government to cut it down to size.

Lord Green, who was chief executive and then chairman in those happy HSBC days was not called either by us or the Treasury committee. I said he should be because of course we'll look daft if we don't challenge the boss but the Tories thought no so I was a solitary voice for sense .That's not unusual but I do hope I didn't upset them .They won't like to be thought to be doing what the government wants.

Still of the worst sanction banks which behave badly have to face is a fierce tongue lashing from Margaret Hodge rather than the massive fines and occasional prison sentences they have to face in the USA it makes it easier to attract them here to conduct their dodgy business in London where chaps regulate chaps and can be guaranteed to be nice to other chaps even if they're foreigners. London's grass is Greener.

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Lord Green headed HSBC at the height of its wrongdoing. He must face MPs

Like my constituents in Grimsby I'm constantly amazed as the HSBC horror banking story unfurls to discover how many people at the top were paid so much to not know what was going on. It's even more amazing to find that they face no sanction at all beyond the embarrassment of appearing before select committees to justify the way they've profited by turning a blind eye to what amounts to criminality.

It's vital, to maintain the credibility of both the banking and the tax system, that wrong doing should be exposed and punished, and that those responsible shouldn't profit from it. In the US with its tougher regulation perps are punished and rough justice works. So in 2012 HSBC was fined $1.9 billion because its "blatant failure to implement proper anti-money laundering controls facilitated the laundering of at least $881 million in drug proceeds" and the bank "accepted responsibility for its criminal conduct and that of its employees"

Here in Britain we're much nicer. Chaps rule and regulate other chaps while HMRC tries to maintain good relations with the big corporations. So when yet another HSBC scandal was forced on the reluctant attention of our regulators with the leaking by Herve Falciani of a list of clients of HSBC's private bank in Switzerland who'd been using Swiss accounts to evade tax with the active support of the bank the matter was handed to the revenue not the courts or the regulators.

In Britain the management assumption must be that pennies come from heaven...The bank profited from criminality, the directors, on bonuses and profit related pay, benefitted, yet no director, non-exec director, audit committee member, or auditor fulfilled even the minor responsibility driven them under the Corporate Governance Codes to "comply or explain" and none of them brought matters to public attention. No one at the bank has suffered any sanctions. Only one tax evader has been indicted and the shake out of the evaders on the long list has produced less for the revenue than the smaller list of evaders in France and Spain. As for the man who was chief executive from 2003 to 2006 then chairman from 2006 to 2010 and therefore in charge of the whole operation, Lord Green, he hasn't even had to suffer a tongue lashing from Margaret Hodge the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee. Instead he was put into the Lords and made a Minister when he retired from the bank. Saint he may be, but a Trappist one

Tory members of the PAC and the Treasury committee don't want him to appear, though I'm not sure whether it's because we shouldn't call peers, priests or ex ministers. The Government clearly doesn't want him grilled. I'd guess that if he did have the decency to fulfil his responsibilities and explain his position Lord Green would use the same excuse as those HSBC executives who have faced up to a select committee grilling, which is to say "I might have drawn big money and bonuses for being in charge but I certainly didn't know what was going on. Someone should have told me but no one did"

There's none so blind as he who will not see may or may not be a good excuse for evading the responsibilities of directors under the Companies act of 2006 to discharge their fiduciary duties towards the company. It doesn't convince me. It's either really a statement that directors were drawing huge amounts of pay for doing nothing in which case they are being paid under false pretences, or an admission that the bank was too big to manage and should be broken up.

Either way it's perfectly possible that HSBC was not a unique case and that other banks were doing much the same things. We do need to know but the only way to restore faith in the system now is if Lord Green has the integrity to explain his role and both he and the others who ran HSBC but failed so badly to fulfil their responsibilities to customers, shareholders and the law faced sanctions rather than well upholstered retirements.

Monday 9 March 2015


I love the way the parties are preparing for the post election deals that will be necessary after the election by tying each other hands about who they'll deal with and how. Cameron demands that Labour should 't work with the SNP because you never know what they've got under their kilts, Labour warns the Tories about the unionists, and the Lib Dems are desperate to hitch a ride with anyone and everyone shudders at the thought of sex with UKIP

Quelle farce. No one can take any partners until  the music begins to play after the election result then there are only two rules. One whichever party has the largest number of seats has first shot and can come to any arrangement it likes to give it a majority to govern. Taste has nothing to do with it. Only survival counts.

Second the majors need to be well prepared with a agenda as the Tories were in 2010 when they were able to con the Lib-Dems into suicide because they knew Cleggie and Laws were crypto Tories who'd do anything for a place in the sun. Many Labour people felt the Libs had betrayed their principles which are similar to Labours which is true but I took the view that on the numbers there was no alternative however weak the Lib-Dem negotiators

Thirdly there's no rush. It takes as along as it takes. In New Zealand the deal between NZ First and National  took six weeks. We'd have market turmoil if that happened here because older Brits are masochists and want the smack of firm government, preferably on other people's botties

In fact we don't need it. Strong government a la Thatcher only  does damage. So don't panic. The pound would fall. That's good for exports (-after all constant crisis is the EU's way of keeping the Euro low to keep Germany super competitive and we need a much lower exchange rate)

So the only problem with long negotiations is that Britain might have to wait a little longer for a Labour Government to reverse austerity and rebuild .We can even use the negotiations as the reason we need to drop our dafter commitments like eliminating the deficit. All the minor parties are more Keynesian than we are. Only the Tories still peddle deflation in a manifesto which is austerity renewed like Dracula

Last time the Tories were the only party ready with proposals for a coalition which gave them. all they wanted and duped the Lib-Dems into supporting every folly. Labour must be ready with conditions which will end the pain, reverse the damage, and take us back to betterment


The party leaders are proving incredibly stupid over MP's pay.We work for years to get an Independant system to adjudicate on pay. It recommends a pathetic increase compensated for by cuts in pensions ad allowances and the party leaders immediately say they won' t accept it.

This is pandering in its most pathetic form. Parliamentary pay is far too low to attract the most able. More MPs are leaving at the end of one term than ever before because  the job is too tough the pay too low. If we can't get the rate appropriate to a tough job and its status then we are demonstrably pathetic  and deserve all that's not coming to us.

Which is a vital clue. Our leaders want to keep us that way. They want parties of underpaid hacks struggling to keep heads above the rising tide of work not members of stature capable of thinking for themselves and making trouble.They want dependants not Independants, third division footballers (but without the sex) not premier league players

Sunday 8 March 2015

To anger the eurotwerps

I'm beginning to wonder whether the Eurotwerps will ever waken up to the fact that the rise in the value of the pound and the fall in the Euro is going to be very damaging to the British exports to Europe of which they talk so much.

EU (and particularly German) exports to Britain will grow. Our exports to the EU will fall and we'll see a bigger threat to the three million jobs they tell us depend on EU membership than any threat of withdrawal could ever create. It will also allow Germany to run an even bigger and more selfish trade surplus than before damaging demand through pout the EU.

Don't they realise as they blather on about the EU bringing peace and mutual understanding to Europe, that the Euro is bringing deflation and pain to the Mediterranean countries and  de-industrialisation to us.