The Real Brexit

We have been given lots and lots of reasons by the powers that be for Brexit and in order for that to be achieved, lots and lots of people in positions of power, across the political divide, lied to the general public. A few examples are; The £350 million to the NHS bus slogan, the impending immediate economic crash, right through to the picture of thousands of migrants queuing to get into UK and most perniciously the statement by the now Foreign Secretary that millions of Turkish people would be eligible and want to enter UK when Turkey became a member of the EU and we would be helpless to stop it.

Lies, lies and more lies creating and exacerbating the fear of “johnny foreigner”! This was the predication of the means to get us to vote “Leave”.

But what were the real reasons? From Farage to Johnson to Gove the mantra was incessantly, “take back control” and “Get our country back”.

So what exactly do these phrases mean to those who were espousing them?

Clearly, they were appealing to the voters to become independent again, to regain our sovereignty, to remain Great Britain, the superpower in the world and a force to be reckoned with, in our own right internationally. I am suggesting that the back-story to this, as reiterated constantly by the people making those claims, was subtly different.

The establishment, throughout history, has had carte blanche to run the country in their own way and to meet their own self interested needs and expectations. The law was accessed via their wealth, lobbyists ensured government listened to their wishes, legislation was created in their favour, taxes were adjusted so they could accrue more wealth. They did this by, sending their children to public schools, taking all the best university places, creating incestuous networks that ensured the few retained power at the expense of the progress of the majority. Holding onto land and lobbying government through their wealth to ensure their continued dominance.

The establishment through the “Nine Principles” achieves this by;

  1. Wealth wields power via elections. (Battles buses, call centres, breaking election rules)
  2. Legislation increases wealth.
  3. This reduces democracy handing more power to the wealthy establishment.
  4. The welfare state is reduced.
  5. Shaping ideology.(business good, state bad)
  6. Redesign the economy. (Reduce regulation, increase worker insecurity, protect financial institutions from market forces)
  7. Shift the burden. (Increase tax burden proportionately for precariat, reduce tax burden proportionately for plutocracy)
  8. Attack solidarity. (Reduce social security, privatise public services)
  9. Run the regulators. (Lobbyists influence legislation to favour business, e.g. bail out banks not manufacturing)

This is the pernicious cycle of establishment as outlined by Chomsky.

That’s what “Brexit “ is really about. A return to the old order, which the EU threatened by usurping the institutions which were historically, set up by the establishment, populated by the establishment, run by the establishment and perpetuated by the establishment for successive generations.

That’s what you voted for, when you were duped into voting Leave!

One clear example recently of this at work was on Newsnight on Friday 23rd June 2017. When Andrea Leadsom, the failed Tory leader candidate and now promoted to the Cabinet in May’s weak and lacklustre government, when being questioned closely by the interviewer about the current Brexit negotiations said.

“The media needs to be more patriotic”

What she really meant was, know your place, just as you did in the old days when we ran things and you did as you were told.

Well I have some news for Leadsom and it ain’t good.

We are never going back to knowing our place; our mothers and fathers did not fight two world wars, and our sons and daughters did not fight your wars around the world, which has now created this mess, for you to reassert the old dominion. Britain is now an egalitarian country and we will fight you tooth and nail for our new freedoms and the extension of them. Whether that is with EU assistance or not!

The General Election -2017

Teresa May, the Prime Minister has called a general election hoping to make it a one issue election around Brexit, in order to obtain an overwhelmingly large enough majority for the next five years in the House, to be able to continue the Conservative political philosophy of “Small State and Low Tax” government and put any reversal of that philosophy beyond reach of any incoming political party.

The situation that she feels favours this approach in the current political environment is, a weak opposition led by a an uninspiring leader, impending criminal actions against current Conservative politicians, who may lose their seats as a result of election expenses from 2010 and endanger her majority. Also very good opinion polls in her favour and a feeling that she has now defeated finally the outcry of the 48% who voted to remain in Europe. Who at every turn in the media are decried as “Remoaners” and whingers and who will not fall into line with the democratic process, which is alleged to be final as a result of a referendum, which incidentally had no legal basis for action by the government? (Read the Law!)

 

That aside, what are the issues in this election?

Well, May would have us all believe it is only about “strong and stable leadership” her constant party mantra for the election, as that is the only thing that can get us the right deal from Europe and she is the only person to do it. The fact is strong and stable leadership is always required from government, in order to ensure the prosperity and security of the nation. The conservatives do not have a prerogative on leadership, it all depends what kind of strong and stable leadership we want in terms of the type of country and society we want.

 

So, lets look at the options.

The Conservatives will have us believe their leadership is the best. What do they base that on?

 

The Economy.

We are currently running Net Debt at 86.6% of GDP, up from 66.9% in 2010 when the government took office.

The poorest households paid more of their disposable income in indirect taxes (such as Value Added Tax (VAT) and duties on alcohol and fuel) than the richest (27.0% and 14.4% respectively) and therefore indirect taxes cause an increase in income inequality.

Inflation stands at 2.3% and the trend is up. This will almost certainly continue whilst we negotiate our way out of Europe and the pound remains weak costing imports more and more.

More than 1 million people are on zero hours contracts.

Benefit Fraud costs the country £1.6bn

Tax Fraud/Evasion costs the country £43bn.

HMRC employ 3800 people investigating benefit fraud.

HMRC employ 700 people investigating tax fraud/evasion.

Housing.

The coalition government promised to build 200K homes per year. They built 70% and that figure is falling. People who cannot get a mortgage are consigned to short term lets, (6 months to one year).

The number of first time buyers has declined from 600,000 in 1985 to 200,000 in 2012.

Private Landlords number 27m and their income is £14.2bn from 5 million homes.

NHS.

The budget for the NHS in England for 2016/17 is £120 billion.

In the 2015 spending review the government announced that funding for the Department of Health would increase to £133 billion by 2020/21, a real increase of approximately £4.5bn once inflation is taken into account. *

Though NHS funding is growing, it is slowing considerably compared to historical trends. The Department of Health budget will grow by only 1.2% in real terms between 2009/10 and 2020/21. This was far below the long-term average annual increases in health spending since 1949/50 of 3.7% (in real terms).

Looking forward, between 2017/18 and 2019/20 the Department of Health budget will increase by less than 0.5% each year in real terms. This will place increasing pressure on the NHS, as demands for services are still projected to increase.

*This is significantly less than the funding the government claims it has given to the NHS over this period, mainly because ministers have chosen to highlight the funding provided to NHS England only, rather than the Department of Health’s total budget.

The NHS England chief executive, Simon Stevens, has said that under the government’s current spending plans, per capita health funding will fall in real terms in 2018-19, the year the NHS will turn 70.

Education.

Schools are now so disparate and diverse that many parents who just wish to send their child(ren) to a good school are at a complete loss. Spending per pupil is set to fall significantly and the introduction of Free schools and the new Grammar selective schools are not a real choice for all parents but the select few who can afford tutoring and on school costs for extra-curricular activities. If that really is meritorious then perhaps we have all misunderstood the word.

A parent is quoted as saying to Burbalsinghe a renowned head of a new Free school. “ I could not afford to send my child to a private school and thank god you have opened this one”

 Crime.

Some 4.8 million offences of all types were recorded in 2016, up 9% on 2015.

Key statistics for 2016 include:

32,448 knife crimes recorded – an increase of 14% on the previous year

39,355 rapes recorded, up 13%

5,864 firearms offences, up by 13% largely due to a rise in crimes involving handguns

55,824 robberies, a rise of 10%

92,868 car thefts – 16% more than in 2015

Since 2010 there are nearly 20,000 fewer police officers, a reduction of nearly – 14%.

Overall funding for policing has been cut by 15% between 2010 and 2016.

Leadership.

Leadership is about honesty and integrity and whilst it is understood that politicians may need to adapt to the changing circumstances of the economy and world politics and trade, the electorate deserve an honest answer to why that is needed and not a continuous denial of the obvious.

This government has cut child benefit, promised tax-free childcare, a budget surplus by 2019, and no changes to NI and no tax increases.

All these promises have been broken without a comprehensive explanation.

 

So, we all have a choice on the 8th June, this fact is undeniably right.

If you believe in small, uncaring, individually, privatised state and pull the ladder up low taxes and let the poor and vulnerable fend for themselves. Vote Tory.

If you believe in a country, which is willing to spend more to look after others, is facing peacefully outwards to the rest of the world, recognises the need to borrow whilst we invest in our economy and skills base, vote Labour or vote tactically for the alternative parties to form a caring alliance against May and her cronies.

Corbyn is not a poster boy politician or Labour leader or Prime Minister in waiting, but if like me you want people to be honest and principled, he is that man.

Not once during the times I have followed his communication in the media or at live PMQs or meetings have I ever heard him be abusive or personal towards other politicians of any party. He addresses the issues and stays firmly on the issues and what his alternative vision for those issues are and what he and his party will do to fulfill them.

He wishes to debate and when debating is never flustered, always calm, affable but committed and generous to others.

May on the other hand is a poor communicator, flustered when off message and unable to think innovatively and on her feet. She prefers to remain scripted and that is why she does not want her government’s record questioned by the other parties in open debate during this election campaign.

Is this really the style of leadership we want?

Finally, if we make this a personality contest and not an election about policy, we will end up with an authoritative, completely mandated government, which will be able to do whatever they want for 5 years. There will be no effective opposition to the policies and subsequent legislation and the threat to this country from that scenario is far greater than anything seen in the past and since the end of the Second World War.

Be careful what you wish for because you just may get it.

  1. Out of Europe with No Deal.
  2. Reduced public services resulting in a crippled NHS, more crime, less housing, two tier education, failing infrastructure and transport, a bigger deficit, tariffed trade with the rest of the world, a failing economy.
  3. A Prime Minister to ride roughshod over any dissent both internally and externally who will say “You voted for strong and stable leadership and this is my vision of it irrespective what anybody else thinks!

 

I think we have seen this before in other countries. It is not called democracy!

“Black Lives Matter”?

Well actually all lives matter, you might say and of course you would be quite right. It isn’t just black lives that matter in any caring, democratic society but all it’s citizens irrespective of their difference. Surely that isn’t what the “Black Lives Matter” movement is trying to say, is it, that only black lives matter?

It’s trying to say that all lives do matter and in our society and throughout the world we live in, that if you are black or from a minority ethnic background, (BAME) your life does not matter as much as the others who inhabit the uplands of power and wealth, hold sway over your life as a black person, and are mostly white.

Over 1000 black people killed by police and only a minor number of prosecutions.

5 police officers killed by a lone gunman.

Virtual unfettered access to high-powered military assault weapons.

The civilian deployment of military technology, against citizens, in order to kill, rather than arrest.

Over 3000 people killed every year where guns and assault weapons are available to anyone who walks in off the street, with minimum checks on their suitability, to own such a weapon.

All this in the land of the free where all men originally and now women, are born equal!

It couldn’t happen here could it and why should it? We are not the USA and all people irrespective of their background are treated equally and we have legislation to ensure that fairness happens.

Right?

You may believe that, but for BME people in this country that is not how it feels. If one is black or Asian or from an Ethnic Minority (BAME), then what can you expect in this country?

You can expect: –

A higher risk of being stopped and searched by the police.

To be more harshly dealt with in a criminal court sentence than one’s white contemporaries.

To be more likely to receive a custodial sentence.

To be less favourably treated in job interviews, if you get to the interview stage.

To be less likely to rise to high political, legal, military or establishment office.

To be less likely to be well educated than one’s white peers.

To be less likely to own one’s own home.

To be more likely to be involved in crime and drugs.

If you believe that this is untrue then here are some statistics.

 

The UK population is some 63million. 13% are from a BAME background.

Custodial Sentences at Court. 27% White, 30% Black, 32% Asian.

Prison population is 25% BAME.

Judges, 6% BAME.

Police Chief officers, 5% BAME.

FTSE 100 Directors, 1.9% BAME.

Members of Parliament, 3% BAME.

Teachers, 6% BAME.

Military, 7% and Military Officers 2.4% BAME, with none above Brigadier rank.

University Professors, 92% are white.

There are over 500,000 stop searches by police per annum and 86% result in no arrest.

One is 7 times more likely to be stop searched by police if one is Black.

One is 5 times more likely to be stop searched by police if one is Asian.

 

All these statistics are available from current government sources and have not improved dramatically whatever political hue has been in government in the last 50 years since the Race Relations Act outlawed race discrimination in the 1960’s.

Yes that’s right!! The 1960’s!

I would argue that discrimination or systemic processed racism in society is so subtle and so nuanced that even some BAME people do not see it.

Let’s take the 2012 and 2016 Olympics as an example of this subtlety. There is a great feel good factor and adoption of many black icons in Olympic sport, which fulfills our need for nationalism and pride in our country. Mo Farah is proclaimed ‘one of us”, British and proud to bear the flag and most of the population will be pleased to see him knighted. None or little mention of his Somalian, Muslim heritage.

The great British public has assimilated Farah into the epitome of Britishness and there can be no room for anything else. One of the worst things a white person can say to a person of colour is “I don’t mean you, you’re one of us,” when referring to BAME people in general.

Returning to the Olympics, Rowing, Cycling, Equestrianism, Sailing, Tennis, Rugby, Hockey and Golf all have one thing in common. They are generally the preserve of the white middle classes, why? Because they cost a lot of money and so why be surprised when the people who dominate the medals in those sports for our country are white and middle class.

Which are the sports that cost very little to participate in and are almost always community based and not dominated by elite clubs and money and so indirectly lack of opportunity? Boxing, Track and Field.

Where does all the money go? To the elite sports where people who are privileged have the best opportunities, not to finding great BAME Hockey players, or Rowers or Cyclists, or Sailors etc from those communities, that because of systemic disadvantage cannot even show what they could do.

In the Sunday Times today 21/08/2016, quite rightly the contribution by LGBT competitors was highlighted. What a pity that all the pictorial representation was, you guessed it. White! Whenever gender imbalances in society are mentioned, again all the pictorial and anecdotal references are of white professional women

Cameron proudly proclaimed “One Nation” and we are all in it together, May declares to govern for all not just the privileged few.

Words are cheap and sound bites sound very nice to welcoming ears.

It is change we want and so when Black people stop holidaymakers heading to the ports blocking the roads by laying down in them under the banner of “Black Lives Matter” –they do!

 

 

 

A Time for Strategic Leadership to Defeat the Threat to World Peace

I watched Question Time this week as I always do on Thursday nights but it had more poignancy than usual because it was solely devoted to the issue of the French Terrorist attacks last week and the bigger issue surrounding the safety and security of World Peace. The panellists were Evgeny Lebedev, the Russian owner of The Independent, Medhi Hasan the journalist from Al Jazeera, Anna Soubry the Business Minister, Natalie Nougayrède the editor of Le Monde and one time editor of the Guardian and Max Hastings the respected journalist and war historian. This was a considerably high profile panel to produce some clear and succinct answers to the threat the world faces.

With exception of Anna Soubry, all panellists offered some tactical answers but none offered global strategic solutions to the problems we as humankind face. Unfortunately for Soubry she demonstrated a clear lack of understanding of the nuances and subtleties of the interconnected issues we are facing and in a quite one-dimensional and non-intellectual way offered very simple solutions to a very complex problem. This, from a Minister, who sits, and has influence at the Cabinet table. Most worrying.

 

I suggest that this particular threat even more than the conventional inter- state problems faced by the world in the Second World War is very different and requires strong international alliances, which are unbreakable and determined.

My strategic solution initiated and sanctioned by the UN is fourfold: –

  1. Defeat ISIS by use of conventional force.
  2. A pan-European solution to the refugee egress.
  3. Intelligence to defeat the instigators of Civil War
  4. Deny Funding.

 

Defeat ISIS by conventional force.

I would advocate that through diplomacy we ensure a UN Security Council determination to facilitate a conventional military defeat of ISIS. The command and control should belong to those states most affected by the threat in the region but fully supported by hardware, materials and personnel by those nations most able to supply the necessary expertise in these areas.

The tactical application of military strategy to be determined by the conventional forces involved in the conflict.

So, should ISIS dissipate themselves into a non conventional guerrilla force which is most likely when confronted, the strategic response maybe formulated and assisted by others, but the tactical and operational application should be determined by the ground commanders. A sound post conflict response is probably the most important aspect of this part of the strategy and is too big to be dealt with here. 

A pan-European solution to the refugee egress.

At a time of threat of this magnitude, it is important that Europe responds cohesively and this is almost certainly not a time to be questioning the bonds, which have kept European peace for over 70 years. We must be in Europe, not breaking a treaty, which has clearly stood the test of time. This is a European problem and all member states must fully shoulder the burden of responsibility and not leave the issue to a few guardian Border States.

Close the external European borders. All refugees presenting themselves at the borders must be given entry and then detained in order to be biometrically assessed. Then an assessment of their status to determine whether they are genuine asylum seekers under international law. If so all European countries must take a proportion of those refugees based on a pro-rata basis. This is the international law but nobody must expect only a few member states to shoulder a disproportionate burden irrespective of the internal political fallout.

All economic migrants should be denied entry post assessment and returned to the country of origin to apply to enter the country of their choice in the normal way.

Intelligence to defeat the instigators of Civil War.

The terrorist threat we face as individual states is in fact a Civil War. People who are of the country in which the acts are carried out perpetrate all of the terrorist acts. I recognise that this is often as result of training and hardening of attitudes in other countries but the radicalisation of people starts in the home countries and so I would define this as Civil War. To combat Civil War requires the gathering, analysis, dissemination and operational actions based on intelligence. It is a civil problem not a military one.

Combatting our own countrymen who would commit Civil War against us depends on our ability to act on the whole of the CONTEST strategy, which has to date been very effective, by community, the police and intelligence agencies and the rest of the public services. If not properly supported, it will inevitably fail. We will never have complete security and so the whole population needs to be educated as to the content of the threat.

I was on a train recently and spotted a bag lying between seats unattended. I was the only person who questioned why it was there and who it belonged to. This, only 2 days after Paris. Astounding.

The current government has a problem, aspiring to small state and low taxes. Now is the time to park some of those aspirations and keep us safe and secure. If that means raising taxes and increasing the size of the state, then so be it. Better to have our state that not!

Deny Funding.

It is clear that the people who would harm us whether internally or externally receive huge amounts of money to fund their infrastructure and subsequent actions. They are a sophisticated enemy who require a sophisticated response. This means unfettered neo-liberal markets provide the oxygen of both publicity and the means of making huge amounts of money. Money never has an intrinsic value only an instrumental value and allows the enemy to purchase expertise and ordnance. There must be a coordinated global response through the business world and real legal action must be taken against those who supply or assist the enemy in any way through materials both hard and soft.

That justice against perpetrators must be seen to be done and the International Court is the place for that to happen.

Conclusion.

Many more informed and influential thinkers have written many more words than I have on this subject, and I am not proposing this as the only set of solutions, but it seems to me that at the moment when we most need it, a strategy needs to be put in place that we can all recognise and act upon, at an international, national, community and individual level. It will require international co-operation not seen in our lifetime, but I believe that is what is required and it is now time for the International institutions to play a world role.

 

Benefit Entitlement or Charitable Patronage

This government has demonised benefit claimants and now reduces benefits on the back of a political mantra which portrays all benefits claimants as scroungers and feckless wasters. Much of the electorate have clearly swallowed this lie (even the previous Labour Party administration under Harriet Harman) and support government moves to cap benefits for all including working people by reducing working tax benefits whilst allowing employers to continue to exploit “hard working aspirational” people (the governments words) to work on zero hours contracts at a minimum wage, which it is recognised has fallen far below the level of a living wage, thus further increasing working and non- working poverty.

In any civilised society where a huge amount of wealth is created such as ours, (The 4th largest economy in the world) there is a recognition that not everybody can be financially successful as everybody else. This is due to the intrinsic difficulties in creating a fair society where the rich get richer through their elite networks and establishment power and the less advantaged have less access and opportunity. Therefore the government through taxation wishes to equalise this difference by creating a welfare system which prevents people going hungry, homeless, and without the opportunity to progress through education and training. It is not based on subjective factors but objectively assesses individual need and distributes on that basis. (There maybe a good case to means test therefore and eliminate universal benefits).

Cameron recently, in political terms, espoused a political philosophy called the “Big Society”, this was actually a wish to return to the Victorian era of philanthropy where business guilds and crafts would set up financial trusts which subjectively gave monies and help to people who applied for it and who they believed “deserved” their help. This was a value driven basis for giving and inevitably some applicants did not reach the required level of “acceptance” by the Boards dishing out the money. A great example is JB Priestley’s play – An Inspector Calls.

The Labour government in 1945 recognised that this was fundamentally wrong and that the state had a role to play in ensuring that citizens in need should be looked after by government and not the subjective wishes and values of well meaning but unenlightened interventionists. This fundamentally and still does oppose the Tory political philosophy of self determination and the fact that it is not the role of state to help individual citizens. Unfortunately with a Tory majority and a certain five years in government we can expect much more of the same. The rich will inevitably get richer and the poor will inevitably get poorer under this austere regime.

That does not detract from the fact that we have created a society where people do have entitlements and that includes the entitlement to benefits when needed and those should not be subject to the whims and vagaries of people imposing their values and beliefs on the recipients, which is ostensibly how this government is transforming the benefits system and encouraging people to believe that it is their money that they are giving away, to people who do not deserve it.

In the recent book The Great Tax Robbery by Richard Brooks, he demonstrates the lie perpetrated by this government by emphasising the facts. For every £1Bn of tax/benefit fraud there are 9000 prosecutions for benefit fraud and only 5 for tax evasion by the big companies and rich individuals, but only £1Bn represents benefit fraud whereas over £30Bn is represented by tax avoidance/evasion. Therefore, this incumbent government bring the full force of the law to bear on the poorest in society whilst ignoring the richest and their criminality.

To summarise, when a person says I am entitled to the benefits provided, then, they are and we should not be hankering for a return to where people stood in line to beg from rich benefactors who often would say No! based on prejudice and discrimination.

7/7 – The Aftermath

If God exists and is omniscient and omnipotent, was he present on this day?

Did he guide the hand of those wishing to create mayhem and destruction in his name or did he decide for those who died, it was their time? Did he decide that those who were injured would be stronger and more courageous to bear the pain of their injuries? Did he decide that the families and friends of those who were injured and killed should also bear the loss and hurt?

Maybe he was present but did not intervene in the affairs of humankind, merely creating the environment in which we are all independent agents. Does God exist and is he present in all human tragedy both historically and forever in the future?

Ten years on as all people effected by these tragic events seek solace in their God, if he exists, do they feel less pain and hurt as a result of the trappings of monuments, symbolism and public outpouring of sympathy and grief to their God? Is the same God, if he exists, present for the parents, brothers, sisters, family and friends of those who created the mayhem and is he present in their grief and unbearable loss?

So if God exists and does nothing, why would he be omniscient and omnipotent, all seeing all powerful and all doing and still remain a bystander?

It is mysterious and his mystery moves in many ways according to those who believe, but it is also illogical and baffling to us mere humans.

If God exists for you, then I hope he cares, because he does not exist for us all and please remember that when you speak with your God and maybe the question should be not, “Does God exist? But why do we need a God?”

The “Establishment” is Back!

As a result of the recent election are we now firmly back in an Establishment led society which will now reinforce the hold of the rich and powerful on society and create further inequality through a neo liberal approach to the free market allowing more wealth to be accumulated by the few?

I suggest that we are and that the ramifications of the Tory majority will be exactly that.

Does the Establishment even exist? I would suggest it does, although defining it and the demarcation of its boundaries is notoriously difficult.

 

So, what is the “Establishment”?

I define it as: –

The “Establishment” is a portal within which ultimate power exists and from which others are excluded access. It resides in the accumulation of wealth through select networks and the activities of its members’ are hidden from the scrutiny of the rest of us.

 

Evidence of this “activity” crosses the boundaries of politics, business, the media, law, the police (who are unwitting guardians of it), the Church, the Armed Services and many major institutions. Members of this select coterie are bound together by the most nebulous of societal factors but the overwhelming common denominator is wealth and the accumulation of it and protecting that activity from scrutiny.

One of the ordinary person’s direct challenges to this discrete power was the Human Rights Act through Europe. The Tories now intend to rid themselves of this piece of International legislation which may hold the establishment to account and even to rid us of the opportunity eventually to redress through Europe at all by hiding behind Europe constituting a threat to our national democracy and leaving it through the “will of the people” in a referendum.

I guess we all know instinctively the spin that will be placed through the media barrage leading up to the referendum on whether we should vote Yes or No to staying in Europe. The question of course is how well informed we will be at the point of voting.

Our democracy of course is a nonsense. Since time immemorial, From Lord Salisbury as Prime Minister questioning the opening of the voting franchise to the whole of society, the Establishment has only ever tried to maintain the balance of its power against the ordinary people feeling so angry as to resort to revolution and overthrow them.

25% of people voted for the current government-is that really democracy? Then we are fed the spin that this is the best way to achieve stable government. It is also the best way for a minority of people to maintain power over the majority and use legislation enacted by them to continue to help their cronies accumulate more power and wealth which they will have access to when they leave government or even whilst they are in government through “outside interests”. They will do this by boundary changes thus getting re-elected next time and also ensuring that the state continues to support businesses by subsidising wages in the form of benefits to workers and allowing workers to be a flexible and accessible commodity through zero hours contracts. Nice work if you can get it, so vote Tory.

 

If you voted Tory and in the future you cannot get a GP’s appointment, or the medicines for yours or a member of your family’s illness, or your operation which you need to prevent yourself dying in the near future is months away, or the council charge you to collect your rubbish, or you are unable to either rent or buy a house, or the police will not come to help you if you are a victim of crime or any of the things which you expect in a free and democratic country, then don’t complain, because that’s what you voted for and the rich and powerful who are being supported by the government you voted for have no need to worry about these things because they have the wealth to pay for them as individuals.

This is not the politics of envy but of justice and equality. My daughter sometime ago asked me “Can you be a rich Socialist”? And on closer discussion it was clear that she was struggling with the idea of being a socialist and owning a business or accumulating wealth.

My answer was “Yes, you can, if you build a business and create wealth which is shared with the people who create the wealth for you in the shape of a living wage, pensions, sick pay and you pay the taxes due, albeit less profit for yourself, then why not”?

 

The Monarchy is probably the biggest and most powerful member of the “Establishment” exercising subtle but provocative power over all of us. The Monarchy after the 17th century was meant to be nothing more than a ceremonial tradition of our unwritten constitution. Then why is Prince Charles, the future king, first of all, writing to various powerful figures in society to share his views on government policy and then being openly shielded by the very people he has written to, post the judicial decision to publish his “private” letters? Even his own son defended him and so clearly he doesn’t understand the role of Monarchy in today’s society and if they do not understand, that they are our public servants, should they continue?

 

If we do not question and challenge the “Establishment” how will we ever achieve justice and equality? Because they would have us believe that they have our best interest at heart. If you believe that, then don’t cry when it becomes untrue for you and there is no redress.

“Free Speech?”

 

In light of the awful things, which have happened in France over the last week, it is worthwhile as a secular, humanist to say how abhorrent and inhumane these acts were. They are not acts of religious zeal but are acts of terror and criminality. They are designed to cause a reaction and not a proactive response. It is the proactive response which we as a society should be measuring and putting in place and we look to our institutional leaders for this.

Reactive behaviours are not what are required at the moment.

But let us examine first the call for “Free Speech”. The fact is we do not have free speech because this is always constrained by the law and the law states quite clearly that if our speech or actions incite hatred or violence then we are not permitted to say or act in accordance with how we wish to behave.

So people exercising their right to free speech also have a responsibility to stay within the law.

Free Speech is also not a part of a society, which allows institutions to withhold things from us through D notices and prevents lawful disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act as frequently, happens. Thousands stated “Je Suis Charlie” one man in France said something different on social media and was promptly arrested. Who then does “Free Speech” apply to? Just those we wish to hear?

I believe Tony Blair once said, “The worse thing I ever did was to allow the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act”. That one statement encapsulates what our political leaders really think about us the electorate who put them in power over us.

It is noteworthy that after each terrible terrorist event our political leaders decrease our freedoms through legislation. 9/11 in the USA and 7/7 in UK are all examples of increases in legislation, which impacted upon our civil liberties as individuals, and now once again, Cameron is proposing to legislate against social media, a free space area for individuals to share ideas.

The facts are, that there are about 3.3 million people in UK who follow Islam as a religion, the estimate is about 300 individuals are suspected by the security services of being involved in terrorist activity from that group.

So, 300 people are holding 63 million of UK citizens to ransom and subject to increasing loss of freedom and free speech and the reaction of our highly intellectual and experienced political leaders is more legislation against us the majority. Increased legislation means lazy legislative practitioners. We have ample laws to deal with this threat and so our protective services must work harder to protect us.

There was a security failure in France, it never needed more legislation, just better practice.

Be the Change that You wish to see in the World

This famous quote by Mahatma Gandhi can be both simple and difficult to interpret which I am sure is his intent. If you read his autobiography which is subtitled “OR The story of my experiments with the truth” I believe he is asking us not to look to others to make sense of the world but to look inside and ask ourselves why we see the world as an individual in the way we do and also then to extrapolate as to how our actions which are the result of how we see the world then impact upon others.

Diversity (I really now dislike that word and the toxic connotations it can hold for me and so I will furthermore describe diversity as “managing difference” which is inclusive of all), I believe starts with how we individually relate to the world and specifically to other people.

I believe there is both a moral and business case to managing difference well. Peter Singer in his book Practical Ethics uses a wonderful model to describe equality not as treating people equally but according to their “equal consideration of interests”. He argues that it is right and proper to treat people according to their interests and not based on their characteristics.

Take this example from his book.

 

“Take a relatively straightforward example of an interest, the interest in having physical pain relieved. Imagine that after an earthquake I come across two victims, Person A with a crushed leg, in agony, and Person B with a gashed thigh, in slight pain. I have only two shots of morphine left. Equal treatment would suggest that I give one to each injured person, but one shot would not do much to relieve the pain of the Person A with the crushed leg.”

 

I use this example in all the leadership (for me this includes managing difference) training and coaching that I currently do and the results are intuitively reassuring in that the majority of participants give more of the morphine to the person with the crushed leg. The result is not skewed by culture, nationality, religion or any other factor. When difference is described philosophically in this way people understand that it is perfectly acceptable to extend this principle to certain groups and then to give those groups more resources than others because of the disproportionate disadvantage incurred by belonging to that group.

 

This is I believe a fundamental principle in understanding how we as individuals view and relate to the world. What comes from this, is an acceptance that “other” is not something to be feared or viewed with distrust but to be understood and related to, whatever and whoever the “other’ maybe.

It is also very interesting that having established this principle with the participants, it is possible to widen the discussion even further by introducing the protected characteristics defined by the law and ask people “So would your decision change if: –

  • Person B was a member of your family?
  • Person A was old and Person B was a child?
  • Person A was disabled and Person B were able bodied?

 

And so on and so forth adding more and more philosophical conundrums to the initial question.

If we accept that it is fair, based on this example to give differently to different groups based on their ‘Equal Consideration of Interests” whether as an individual or as a group, then we begin to understand that managing difference cannot be based on trite political straplines such as

 

  • Everyone on benefits is a scrounger

Or

  • All rich people are tax dodgers

Or

  • Any  other stereotype

Because we then reduce everyone to the lowest common denominator that fits our view of the world and it will almost certainly be at fault. Even if it does make us feel more secure and sure of our place in the world.

This can be distinctly uncomfortable for us because it challenges our established view of the world as we see it. But isn’t that the point of how we live our lives? To constantly challenge ourselves and where necessary others, in order, to develop a more rounded view of the world and others in it.

This will be the subject of my next blog.

“Why do we see the world, the way we do and what is the impact on our behavior?”

So what, is all this furore about Diversity anyway?

Equality Legislation has been with us now for over 40 years and was born on the back of racial riots and civil unrest unseen on that scale before. It stemmed from large-scale visible immigration and the fears of an indigenous population about jobs, housing and access to public services. Sound familiar? Not only 40 years ago but happening now in our country, fuelled once again by xenophobia and the fear of “other”. Whoever and whatever “other” may be.

A quick snapshot of the newspapers over the last couple of weeks has seen evidence or scaremongering, depending on your point of view, of epic proportions.

Sol Campbell an eminent footballer drawing a conclusion that because he is black he never attained the highest footballing position in the land of his birth, team captain for his country. Easy to dispute if one is of a mind to deconstruct his footballing ability perhaps and ignore his colour.

The Army is currently managing up to 200 alleged sex crimes including the high profile coroners verdict of the bullying of an RMP female Corporal who alleged rape and was subsequently hounded to her death by her own hands by her comrades in arms.

Female Ministers in government, being allocated smaller offices than their male counterparts. Insignificant it may seem, unless of course you are one of those women.

Unequal pay for women, stifling the productivity of our business world currently emerging from deep recession.

Mr Farage of UKIP insisting that our communities are unrecognisable and are not the sorts of places fit to be handed on to our children and grandchildren.

Dominic Grieve the Attorney General stating openly in print and on the ITV that people of Pakistani heritage in politics are endemically corrupt (He later apologised when taken to task by the media and other commentators)

Finally the poster campaign in racially sensitive areas of London encouraging people to go home if they have overstayed on their visas.

Looking further afield, Anti-Gay legislation in Russia and Uganda demonising people for no reason other than their sexual orientation.

 

When did it recently become so acceptable 40 years after the legislation spanning National, European and International boundaries to treat everyone with respect and dignity, to now generate fear and loathing of others based only their difference from others, even at the highest levels of our society, with such impunity.

When did Diversity become such a dirty word that diminishes its importance in business and public service with the terms “ political correctness gone mad”, “What about my Human Rights” or “it’s that lot again”!

The Diversity training industry has a lot to answer for in this respect, having in the past provided transactional training, which made people fearful of what to say and do and without encouraging an emotionally intelligent approach to the subject of managing difference.

We are all different and it is no more acceptable to use any language or behaviour, which may offend or cause hurt to others based only their difference, by anyone.

There is a real business case for Diversity in all parts of society and these benefits have been well researched and documented. Difference is not just about the legislative “protected characteristics” but also education, socio-economic background and all the other factors that make us who we are. It is time to explore them in a transformational way in all walks of life and this I would like to do in these articles. This is not about telling people how they should behave or what to say but it is about understanding, accepting others for the skills and qualities that they bring to society and eradicating inequality and injustice. People from Minority Groups almost certainly did not ask to belong to those groups but they do ask for respect, dignity and to be treated fairly by the society in which they live.

That is a Leadership imperative, not only a question of difference and I believe that the sooner we mainstream diversity into the leadership paradigm the sooner we as individuals, in our teams and organisations’ will genuinely embrace difference and begin to fully recognise the benefits that different people can bring.

Society is changing, sometimes at a pace we find difficult to fathom but to ignore it, is to atrophy as a society. Leading in change management principles is no different whatever the change or rate of it. So to formulate a more rounded debate and to create a greater awareness of the subject, maybe that is where the issue of Diversity should be firmly placed.