This is what happens when a political party dumps its morals in favour of cheap votes and ideology

Alois Dvorzac, an 84-year-old Canadian with Alzheimer’s died in handcuffs while detained at Harmondsworth detention centre, run by the private, US company, GEO.

Here is the Channel4 account of this appalling story:

Continue reading “This is what happens when a political party dumps its morals in favour of cheap votes and ideology”

“It’s not racist to be concerned about immigration”: The straw man argument of those with a guilty conscience.

xenophobic headlines


Recently David Cameron has revived an often repeated “straw man” argument in which he states that it is not racist to be concerned about immigration.  Our own MP for Salisbury, John Glen, in a recent article in the Salisbury Journal, said “Neither do I believe it is racist or xenophobic to want to see limited resources allocated fairly to those who make a contribution in this country”.  John Glen, View from the Commons, Salisbury Journal 17th Jan. This straw man argument is meant to distract us from the reality (and perhaps their own guilty consciences?).

Continue reading ““It’s not racist to be concerned about immigration”: The straw man argument of those with a guilty conscience.”

John Glen MP: “No Alternative to Universal Credit”

I was disappointed to see John Glen use his “View from the Commons”: No Alternative to Universal Credit” 27th Feb Salisbury Journal, to respond to the chorus of criticism from church leaders about government welfare reform without actually addressing any of the issues raised.

The reality is that no one objects to welfare reform or the principle of universal credit. No one disagrees that an effective tax rate of 84% for hardworking low wage earners is criminal and, although much of the justification for the benefits cap is based on misinformation, no one disagrees that the underlying issue – channeling tax payers’ money to landlords charging unaffordable rents because of a catastrophic lack of affordable housing – is anything but unfair to ordinary people.  

The reality is that Mr. Glen needs to address the actual criticisms i.e. that the implementation of benefits reform has not just involved bureaucratic failures but has included indiscriminate cuts and punitive sanctions. These and other cuts to local authority spending are causing real hardship to ordinary people who have done all the right things but find themselves at a time of rising living costs and decreasing income unable to make ends meet.

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Two questions for Salisbury MP John Glen concerning the government’s misuse of benefits and poverty statistics

Listening to Britain’s Churches – Salisbury
Conservative Christian Fellowship
Friday, 21 February 2014 from 18:30 to 21:00 (GMT)
Fisherton Street, United Kingdom
(Panel includes Salisbury MP, John Glen and Wiltshire councillor for Salisbury St Francis and Stratford, Mary Douglas.)

The Conservative Christian Fellowship are holding a ‘Question Time style’ event in Salisbury this Friday – here are some suggestions for possible questions:

Two questions for John Glen MP:

  1. Do you agree with the grave concerns about Government misuse of benefit statistics expressed by an alliance of churches representing Christians from England, Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland.   Please see their letter to Mr Cameron here:
  2. Do you agree with four major British Churches that  David Cameron is factually wrong and misleading on poverty. Please see a summary of their comments here:

Continue reading “Two questions for Salisbury MP John Glen concerning the government’s misuse of benefits and poverty statistics”

Matt Ridley: “Do people mind more about inequality than poverty?” (So what if somebody else has a yacht?)

In a new article:  “Do people mind more about inequality than poverty?”  Matt Ridley has used public misperceptions of poverty and undoubted reductions in global poverty to obfuscate and trivialise the very real issue of growing inequality within nations.  In the article Ridley totally ignores concerns about the excessive concentration of wealth in an increasingly powerful global elite.

Ridley points out that public perceptions of poverty and inequality are unreliable but this is not earth shattering news – evidence abounds that the “British public is wrong about nearly everything” or “Perceptions are not reality

Evidence does show that there has been a decrease in global poverty and a small decrease in global inequality. These improvements are obviously good news and should indeed be publicised.  We need to ensure that these improvements continue and at a faster rate.  However, small changes to extreme poverty and inequality still leave unacceptable levels of extreme poverty and inequality.  Furthermore, looking at global figures it is easy to hide realities like:

“Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population, and seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years. The World Economic Forum [1] has identified economic inequality as a major risk to human progress, impacting social stability within countries and threatening security on a global scale.

This massive concentration of economic resources in the hands of fewer people presents a real threat to inclusive political and economic systems, and compounds other inequalities – such as those between women and men. Left unchecked, political institutions are undermined and governments overwhelmingly serve the interests of economic elites – to the detriment of ordinary people.” [2]

This, below, is Ridley’s  concluding (penultimate) paragraph  (his final paragraph is bunkum – check it out for your self):

“None of this is meant to imply that people are wrong to resent inequality in income or wealth, or be bothered about the winner-take-all features of executive pay in recent decades. Indeed, my point is rather the reverse: to try to understand why it is that people mind so much today, when in many ways inequality is so much less acute, and absolute poverty so much less prevalent, than it was in, say, 1900 or 1950.  Now that starvation and squalor are mostly avoidable, so what if somebody else has a yacht?”

This is, at best, disingenuous. In the first sentence Ridley says that he doesn’t want to imply that people are wrong to resent inequality and yet in the following sentence he does just that – does he think we are all stupid? The final sentence starts with nonsense and finishes with a straw man.  The issue is not resentment or envy of the successful local entrepreneur who owns a yacht for sailing with friends and family, this is just a Ridley obfuscation. The real issue is the power that a £75 million super yacht’s owner has to influence or control the democratic checks and balances that protect us, however imperfectly, from rule by plutocracy. It is the fact that Global inequality is about power, not just wealth or yachts, that Ridley, no doubt deliberately, manages to brush under the carpet.


The graph below shows how the improvement in the global distribution of income is mainly due to rising incomes in the emerging economies like China.  At the same time ordinary people in Europe and the US have seen their incomes stagnate or decrease.   The winners have been those in the emerging economies that have been able and lucky enough to benefit from their country’s growth and a very small global elite. The losers are the very poorest (e.g. in sub-Saharan Africa) and the working / middle  classes of the developed nations.

income growth












The issue here  is not about talented or hard-working individuals being able to afford to own a yacht. It is about a small elite, less than 1% of the population, who are so excessively wealthy that they can exploit their resulting power to disrupt the normal political, democratic and regulatory processes for their own benefit and to the detriment of ordinary people.  This gross inequality of power is a major risk to human progress, impacting on social stability within countries and threatening security on a global scale.

Coincidentally, Matt Ridley (5th Viscount Ridley), with a family estate of Blagdon Hall, near Cramlington, Northumberland just happens to be a hereditary member of the 1%:

Source  for graph  – Branko Milanovic:

[1]  Global Risks 2014 (World Economic Forum):

[2]  Working for the Few – Political capture and economic inequality (Oxfam):

The Rise of Inequality, Branko Milanovic (IMF):

The richest 85 people on the globe – who between them control as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population put together – could squeeze onto a single double-decker:

Global inequality is about power, not just wealth:

U.N. sounds alarm on worsening global income disparities (Reuters):

Capitalism vs. Democracy:

Why Income Inequality Is Here to Stay by Branko Milanovic:

Winners of Globalization: The Rich and The Chinese Middle Class. Losers: The American Middle Class, Branko Milanovic:

“British public wrong about nearly everything” or “Perceptions are not reality”:

Matt Ridley – failed banker and rightwing neolibertarian:

Two charts, same planet, not quite the same message.

I present two charts for your consideration:

The first chart is taken from Bill Gate’s Annual 2014 Newsletter where it caught my eye: Bill Gates and his “Three myths that block progress for the poor”

The chart (click on it to enlarge if necessary)  is interesting and thought provoking  but seems to have something missing.

income growth 2


Here is a similar chart, also interesting and thought provoking, particularly as it includes a little more information than Bill Gates’ chart.  (Credit : Chart by @jamestplunkett and it’s based on a chart from inequality economist Branko Milanovic via

income growth



This Incredible Chart Explains Almost All Of Recent Economic History

Winners of Globalization: The Rich and The Chinese Middle Class.  Losers: The ordinary citizens of the developed world. …

Bizarre Matt Ridley article tries to blame China’s one-child policy on “western greens”

Matt Ridley has been at it again:

His latest article is titled “China’s one-child policy was inspired by western greens” yet within that article there is not a shred of evidence or a single fact, argument or reference to any evidence that supports the title’s claim.

All he gives is an account of how a Chinese missile scientist, a Dutch mathematician, a book commissioned by the Club of Rome and the Rev. Thomas Malthus (1766 – 1834), may have set off a chain of events that may have contributed to the formation of the one child policy.  However, had Malthus and the Club of Rome never  existed, it seems unlikely that the Chinese authorities would have failed to notice that a rapidly increasing population  might be a problem at a time when they couldn’t feed their existing population.

The reality is that the One Child policy tells us a lot about the ruthless and authoritarian nature of the regime that initiated and implemented it and nothing whatsoever about the ideas or proposals of “western greens”.

In fact the reality is that the article and title tell us a lot more about Matt Ridley and his prejudices than it does about China and the One Child Policy.

For as long as I can remember the consensus amongst western experts, and political commentators from the left or right including “western greens” is that population increase is best ‘controlled’ by better eduction (particularly of girls and women), increased availability of contraception, improved infant mortality and general increases in quality of life and security. Individual free choices will then result in a more or less steady population.  This is an oversimplification and different groups will have different priorities and views about how these targets can be achieved but to suggest that “western greens” bear any responsibility for China’s One Child Policy is simply risible and illustrates yet again the intellectual bankruptcy of Matt Ridley’s articles.


Matt Ridley – failed banker and rightwing neolibertarian:

Matt Ridley and “The Anglosphere’s long shadow”:



British sovereignty ‘at risk’ from EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

Without any public debate our government is rushing us into a free trade #TTIP agreement that will end national sovereignty and democracy as we know it.

(TTIP and TPP are a new breed of international trade pacts crafted by multinational corporations and currently being negotiated in secret).

The Government and media ranting about the EU, benefits tourism, health tourism, benefits cheats, immigration and feckless scroungers keeps everyone’s mind off the financial crisis,  i.e. the ongoing consequences of the 2007/8 banking collapse caused by lack of regulation, greed, criminality and incompetence at the top levels of our financial services.

It also makes sure that no one pays any attention to the international trade agreements that are being negotiated and agreed in our names but with a lack of transparency and total lack of democratic debate.   Despite its faults the EU has democratic accountability with checks and balances – sovereignty is shared between the member nations.  Once the international trade deals are signed there will be no democratic oversight, individual nations will not have a veto or any control over the decisions – it will be what Euro-sceptics claim  about the EU but this time it will be for real, non-negotiable and the power will rest with international corporations while the Nation State will have been emasculated in the name of free-trade.   Needless to say a UK outside the EU would be in an even worse position trying to negotiate free-trade agreements from a position of abject weakness.

These free trade agreements transfer power away from the civilising influence of our democratic institutions and pass them to large international corporations that will be able to run rough shod over the wishes of democratic governments and their citizens.  There will be no chance for civil society in an international free for all.  It will be “top down authority” from companies more powerful than individual nation states.

The issue here is not free trade which, presumably, is a good thing. It is that the trade agreements look as if they are being written by big business for big business – there is little evidence that anyone is looking after the interests of the ‘little people’ – ‘the 99%’ – ‘us’!

Check out the links below and let me know what you think.


Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP):

Plans to create an EU-US single market will allow corporations to sue governments using secretive panels, bypassing courts and parliaments  The privatisation of the NHS will be unstoppable:

British sovereignty ‘at risk’ from EU-US trade deal: UK in danger of surrendering judicial independence to multinational corporations:

Osborne’s bid to end democracy by the back door:

Here’s how we’re giving the NHS to USA health insurance companies. Did anyone vote for this? Does anyone want this?:

EU Commission Redefines Corporate Lobbyists As ‘Civil Society’ To Pretend To Be Transparent In TAFTA/TTIP:

Why the new US-EU trade deal will be disastrous for the climate:

TTIP puts the EU’s environmental and social policies on the line: 

The Global Fight Against Corporate Rule – challenging rules that grant corporations the right to sue governments:


Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP):  The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a new international trade pact crafted by multinational corporations and currently being negotiated in secret by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) along with 11 other foreign governments. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) describes the agreement as “an attack on democratic governance” and “a punch in the face to the middle class of America.” :

Critics say vaunted environmental chapter offers few gains to balance downsides of trade deal: