From Pink to Prevention October Art Exhibition

From Pink to Prevention October Art Exhibition

An Exhibition of Original Work by Diana Ward, marking Breast Cancer ‘Prevention’ Month launched on Wednesday 17 October.

On Wednesday 17 October UNISON hosted with a reception a new exhibition of 23 original cartoon works by From Pink to Prevention co-founder Diana Ward. Diana’s art-work is a unique way into the subject of the politics of breast cancer and it reflects on the decades of scientific evidence linking environmental and occupational risk factors to breast cancer. Continue reading

As the NHS turns 70, let’s make it our major export

‘As we celebrate the NHS here, we must not underestimate its symbolism beyond our borders. As the People’s Health Movement, the global network of health activists, made clear in evidence to my recent consultation, the health service does not just impact on the lives of people in the UK. It is a beacon of hope to millions of people around the world who are fighting for their own access to healthcare. Its very existence demonstrates that universal, publicly funded healthcare is possible.

This was always its intention. As Nye Bevan said on the day the NHS was brought into existence: “The eyes of the world are turning to Great Britain. We now have the moral leadership of the world.” Continue reading

70% of the UK’s working population “chronically broke”

Economic insecurity has become the “new normal” in the UK with at least 70% of the UK’s working population “chronically broke”, according to a study by the thinktank the Royal Society of Arts.

Thriving, striving or just about surviving, the RSA/Populus survey of more than 2,000 workers, found that while about 30% of respondents said they lived comfortably, 40% said their finances were permanently precarious. The remaining 30% said they were not managing to get by. Continue reading

Jeremy Corbyn’s Geneva speech in full

Speaking at the United Nation’s Geneva headquarters today, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party, said:

Thank you Paul for that introduction. And let me give a special thanks to the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development. Your work gives an important platform to marginalised voices for social justice to challenge policy makers and campaign for change.

I welcome pressure both on my party the British Labour Party and on my leadership to put social justice front and centre stage in everything we do. So thank you for inviting me to speak here in this historic setting at the Palais des Nations in Geneva a city that has been a place of refuge and philosophy since the time of Rousseau. The headquarters before the Second World War of the ill-fated League of Nations, which now houses the United Nations.

It’s a particular privilege to be speaking here because the constitution of our party includes a commitment to support the United Nations. A promise “to secure peace, freedom, democracy, economic security and environmental protection for all”.

I’d also like to thank my fellow panellists, Arancha Gonzalez and Nikhil Seth, and Labour’s Shadow Attorney General, Shami Chakrabarti, who has accompanied me here. She has been a remarkable campaigner and a great asset to the international movement for human rights.

And lastly let me thank you all for being here today.

I would like to use this opportunity in the run- up to International Human Rights Day to focus on the greatest threats to our common humanity. And why states need to throw their weight behind genuine international co-operation and human rights both individual and collective, social and economic, as well as legal and constitutional at home and abroad if we are to meet and overcome those threats.
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New report on securitisation of aid

  • Syria case may be ‘tip of the iceberg’ for fund backing some of world’s worst security forces
  • Secretive Conflict, Stability and Security Fund uses £500m of aid money
  • Government accused of using loophole to fund discredited consultancy

The controversial cross-government fund behind the British aid project in Syria which has today been suspended amid claims that money was reaching jihadist groups should be shut down, according to campaign group Global Justice Now, which has released a new report on the fund.

The report lifts the lid on one of the British government’s most secretive funds, which is behind military and security projects in around 70 countries including Bahrain, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Iraq and Nigeria. The billion-pound pot, known as the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, spends over £500 million of British aid and is overseen by the National Security Council, chaired by the Prime Minister. Neither the public nor MPs are able to properly scrutinise the fund due to a serious lack of transparency, the report finds.
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A Celebration of Our Greatest 20th Century Prime Minister

Attlee Remembered –the first event in our Attlee Nation project – was a wonderful weekend full of debate and knowledge sharing about the life of Clem Attlee and its resonance for today.

A huge thanks to all our brilliant contributors – especially Attlee biographer Francis Beckett; to our incredibly engaged audiences and our festival team; to our photographers and videographers. And finally, our wonderful partners at Sands Films – Olivier Stockman and Christine Edzard.

Our message for the weekend was simple: in 1945 Attlee had said Yes We Can and by 1951 was able to say said Yes We Did. Discussions about the challenges he faced in post-war Britain and the subsequent domestic achievements of his government were debated in light of today- social need, political urgency and the need for political courage. The nature of good Labour Party leadership from Keir Hardie through to Jeremy Corbyn; Labour Party manifestos 1945 and 2017 were compared as was the power of media barons then and now; and most interestingly, we explored the profound influence upon Attlee’s political development of his time as a social worker. We can truly say that Britain’s greatest 20th century Prime Minister was a social worker first.  And finally, in our closing event ‘In Clem’s Own Words’, we all shared in a very moving evening as we were treated to selected readings of Attlee’s own writings – letters, speeches, poems – read by a wonderful line-up of performers. To have a number of Clem Attlee’s family join us for the night made the evening very special indeed.

Here you can enjoy our video playlist of all the live events

and here is our photo gallery .

Until our next Attlee event!

UK arms firms pay little tax in Saudi arms sale

The report, released by children’s charity War Child, claims that corporations, including BAE systems and Raytheon, have made an estimated $775m in profit on $8bn worth of revenue by selling arms to Saudi Arabia between March 2015 and the end of 2016.

Yet corporation tax receipts since the war in Yemen began stands at just $40m, something the NGO describes as “pitiful”.
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The misleading UK official unemployement numbers

This is almost unheard of. Unemployment was most recently this low in December 1973, when the UK set an unrepeated record of just 3.4%.

The problem with this record is that the statistical definition of “unemployment” relies on a fiction that economists tell themselves about the nature of work. As the rate gets lower and lower, it tests that lie. Because – as anyone who has studied basic economics knows – the official definition of unemployment disguises the true rate. In reality, about 21.5% of all working-age people (defined as ages 16 to 64) are without jobs, or 8.83 million people, according to the Office for National Statistics. Continue reading

Vital Call: MPs want post-Brexit UK to keep to EU’s main chemicals law REACH

Vital Call: MPs want post-Brexit UK to keep to EU’s main chemicals law REACH

The UK House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has today published the report of its inquiry on chemicals regulation after the EU referendum, which particularly focussed on the EU’s world-leading REACH system for regulating chemicals. The EAC criticise the UK Government’s lack of openness about its post-Brexit plans, and point out that most respondents want the UK to remain ‘as closely aligned to REACH as possible‘.

The EAC’s main conclusions

    • The chemicals regulation framework established by the EU through REACH is difficult to transpose directly into UK law. Writing EU regulations into UK law could not be done simply by having a line in the “Great Repeal Bill” deeming REACH to apply in the UK. REACH was written from the perspective of participants being within the EU, with much of it also relating to Member State co-operation and mutual obligations, oversight and controls, and freedom of movement of products

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Facts about the NHS

  1. The population of the UK is an estimated 65.1 million. 
  2. 1 in 20 GP surgeries have closed or merged since 2013. 57 closing down in 2016 alone.
  3. The NHS England budget is £117 billion for 2016/7 and will rise after inflation to £120 billion by 2019/20. 
  4. Every 36 hours the NHS will treat 1,000,000 patients. 
  5. Accident and emergency departments recorded their worst ever waiting times in 2016/7.
  6. Hospitals recorded their worst ever waiting times for elective surgery in 2015. 
  7. The NHS in England has 149,808 doctors, 314,966 nurses, and employs 1.3 million people. 
  8. 19% of NHS staff and 29.5% of NHS doctors are non-British
  9. The average age of recent migrants to the UK is 26.
  10. Healthcare costs change with age: a 20-year old costs an estimated £500 per year, a 65-year old £3750 per year and an 85-year old £7500 per year. 
  11. The population of the UK over 65 in 1975 was 1 in 8. Today it is 1 in 6. By 2050 it will be 1 in 4. There are 1.5 million people over 85 in the U.K today. 
  12. The NHS buys many drugs from Europe and the USA paying in Euros (€) and US dollars ($).
  13. Health tourism, foreign citizens using the NHS, costs the NHS an estimated £1-300 million per year. A new overseas surcharge recouped £289m in 2015. This is 0.3% of the total NHS budget. 
  14. Stationery costs the NHS £146m/year. 
  15. Compared internationally the NHS achieves above average outcomes, with average funding and below average staff numbers. OECD.
  16. Health costs rise each year in developed countries, above real world inflation. This is broken down into staff wage inflation, new technologies, population growth, new drugs and medical advances. 
  17. The NHS was estimated to require £30 billion by 2020 to meet predicted demand. To date, it has received £4.5 billion. 
  18. Social care is estimated to require £4 billion by 2020 to maintain current service. 
  19. The ratio of people working to those retired is called the Old Age Dependency Ratio (OADR). This was steady at around 300 retirees for every 1000 people working from the 1980s to 2006, but has now since started to rise. With retirement age changes, it will still increase by 20% by 2037 to 365.

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Don’t Buy Don’t Sell in the Trump era

After authorising the firing of 59 Tomahawk missiles (each costing around $1.5 million) at a Syrian airbase with no apparent consequential strategic purpose and diminishing none of the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability, the maker of the Tomahawk missiles, Raytheon’s stock rose sharply, adding more than $1 billion to its market capitalisation. Other missile and weapons manufacturers, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics, also saw their stock rose considerably – collectively gaining nearly $5 billion in market value. This on its own may not matter much, after all, which president of the USA has not dropped  expensive bombs on some ‘remote’ nations of the world. But this time may be different.

Trump used anti-establishment and anti-corporate language during his election campaign to distinguish himself from all other candidates – he opposed neoconservative foreign policy, financial and corporate interests, notably Goldman Sachs. Now, after his inauguration, you can hardly see much difference between his foreign policy plans and policies proposed by neoconservatives. His cabinet looks like a ‘who’s who’ of Goldman Sachs alumni. He ratcheted up the military tension in the South China Sea, ordered a failed major special force operation in Yemen, and now seems to be pushing the USA to the edge of nuclear war with North Korea. The more he uses militaristic confrontational rhetoric and actions, the more ‘presidential’ he  looks in the eyes of the mainstream media. He seems ‘unstoppable’.

But is he, really?

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The global F-35 complex

It helps considerably that many of these customers have more than just a few tonnes of precision-engineered titanium to gain from any deal: the beauty of the JSF project is that everyone can bring something to the party. In a Lancashire workshop, for instance, BAE Systems is building a section of the aft fuselage, including the tail, for every F-35; along with other contributions from all over the world, these pieces are then shipped to Texas for final assembly. This means that every F-35 sale is a boost to the coffers of Britain’s own largest arms company. (BAE has also been allowed to do the foldy bits at the end of the wings.) And the opportunities are everywhere. There are aluminium sheets from Milton Keynes, electronic modules from Billingstad, circuit boards from Ankara, hydraulics from Melbourne, wiring systems from Rotterdam, manifolds from Adelaide, wing parts from Turin and actuators from New York. So when Trump threatened to slash the cost of the F-35 programme, or divert some of the custom to cheaper competitors, it wasn’t only American defence contractors who were in the firing line. Everyone had something to lose. On 30 January, ten days after taking office, Trump announced that he had negotiated $600 million off the price tag of the next batch of F-35s. Lockheed’s CEO chose not to shatter his illusion, but it turned out that the next ninety planes were always going to be cheaper anyway – by between 6 and 7 per cent, or $550 and $650 million. The more you build the cheaper they get, thanks to economies of scale. Happily for everyone involved, this also means that more get sold. The ‘military-industrial complex’ turns out to be very simple: the juggernaut has its own momentum. Once it’s rolling it can’t be stopped, even if you’re Donald Trump, something he finally came to acknowledge on 16 March, when his budget plan for the next fiscal year allowed for the ramping-up of F-35 production as part of a proposed 10 per cent increase in overall military spending.

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Ken Loach on Corbyn

The spate of calls for Jeremy Corbyn to quit since last week’s byelections in Stoke and Copeland has been as predictable as it was premeditated. It says everything about the political agenda of the media, and nothing about people’s real needs and experiences.

I went to Stoke and Whitehaven, in Cumbria, a few days before polling. Momentum arranged screenings of Daniel Blake. We went to Labour clubs in neglected areas, old estates away from the centre. At one club I was asked: “Why have you come here? No one comes here.”

Joe Bradley and Georgie Robertson, the organisers, were a model of how Labour activists should work: full of energy, hard-working and brilliantly efficient. They had a warm greeting for everyone, checked the screening facilities, made space for local contributors so people from that community felt it was their event and that they were being heard. This is how Labour can reconnect.

Both screenings were packed. The discussions were passionate, informed and invigorating, a world away from the tired cliches of the public discourse. This was not a marketing exercise but a real engagement with people and their concerns.

The failure of Labour governments – and, importantly, Labour councillors – was a common theme. It is not hard to see the neglect around Stoke. Solid Labour, for sure, but what good has it done them? A 2015 report into the area found 60,000 people in poverty, 3,000 households dependent on charity food, and £25m in council tax arrears. The presence of the BNP, now replaced by Ukip, shows how Labour’s failure left space for the far right.

It was a similar story in Copeland. Industries have been lost – steel, mines, a chemical factory – without any plan to replace them. Labour is seen to be as culpable as the Tories. Someone said that in Copeland it was an anti-establishment vote, and Labour is the local establishment. It was a vote against Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and previous MPs Jack Cunningham and Jamie Reed.

In both constituencies the Labour candidates, neither from the left of the party, were invited, but both candidates ignored the meetings. With coverage on television, radio and the press, this is bizarre. Could it be because Momentum were the organisers? We were there to support Labour. There was not even the courtesy of a reply.
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Housing is a human right not a commodity

In Melbourne, Australia, one in five investor-owned units lie empty, the report says; in Kensington, London, a prime location for rich investors, numbers of vacant homes rose by 40% between 2013 and 2014 alone. “In such markets the value of housing is no longer based on its social use,” the report says. “The housing is as valuable whether it is vacant or occupied, lived in or devoid of life. Homes sit empty while homeless populations burgeon.” …

Farha, 48, by background a human rights lawyer and anti-poverty activist, calls for a “paradigm shift” whereby housing is “once again seen as a human right rather than a commodity”. It is clear, she suggests, that the UN’s sustainable development goal of ensuring adequate housing for all by 2030 is not only receding, but without regulatory intervention to re-establish the primacy of housing as a social good, laughably optimistic. Continue reading

Liberalism and Trumpism

By “liberalism” I mean what is considered under this term in the US. By “to blame” I mean “for the rise of Trump and  similar nationalist-populists”.

What are the arguments for seeing liberal triumphalism which began with the collapse of Communism in the 1990s as having produced the backlash we are witnessing today? I think they can be divided into three parts: economics, personal integrity, and ideology.
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Higher NHS spending is necessary and affordable

The King’s Fund suggest that a 3.5% annual real-terms rise in NHS expenditure, combined with the provision of ‘moderate’ and ‘higher’ social care needs free at the point of use, would bring total health and social care expenditure up to between 11 and 12 per cent of UK GDP by 2025. This compares with the 16.9% of GDP spent by the US and the 11% spent by France on healthcare alone in 2015.

If UK economic growth continues at an annual average of 2%, by 2025 GDP at 2013 prices will be around £2.2 trillion compared to £1.8 trillion in 2015, an increase of £400 billion. In 2013 terms an increase in spending on health and social care to 12% of GDP would represent around an additional £60-70 billion annual spend in 2025. Yet even with this increase in health and care expenditure, the nation as a whole would still have over an extra £300 billion to spend on all other goods and services, public and private. The King’s Fund’s recommendation is thus eminently affordable.
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Foreign investment increases house prices

Average house prices in England and Wales have almost tripled in the last 15 years, from just over £70,000 in 1999 to about £215,000 in 2014. Apart from a reduction in 2009, at the height of the global financial crisis, house prices increased every year during this period. Behind this average lies considerable regional variation, with average prices in the prime London area of Kensington and Chelsea reaching £1.3 million in 2014. Continue reading