Economics

What next? My guess

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/11/2018 - 7:56pm in

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Economics

What now seems a very long time ago, on 19 June 2016, I wrote about what I thought would happen in the event that the country voted for Brexit.  Of course, I did not get everything right,  but I did predict that we would end up with a torrid blue on blue mess as a result of Tory infighting,  and that is where we now are. I also predicted that we would leave, and that after doing so - which would be calamitous - there would be a need for  a coalition dedicated to:

  • Electoral reform
  • House of Lords reform
  • EU readmission on revised terms
  • A national economic plan.

That government would, I suggested, seek a mandate for no more than two years.  Then there would be new elections and a referendum on the terms for re-admission to the EU.

I happen to still think that is what may well happen in the longer term on this issue - I predicted this for 2020. But we have to get there first. So what might happen before we get to such a position?

I have to say,  I  can offer no more certainty than anyone else.  As I write the country is expecting Michael Gove's resignation, and the demise of Leavers in government as they abandon the mess that they have created. But what happens thereafter is speculation. But,  given that I have never ducked from such activity,  I am going to offer my guess.

First, just about every Tory Leaver will leave government. That might include Gove, Hunt, Mordaunt and Javid, each fancying their chances as May topples.

Secondly, May will topple, but will stay as interim prime minister as that is what the rules require.

Third, the Tories will suffer infighting of a sort never known. Who might emerge as Leader is anyone's guess. I do not rule out Dominic Grieve except for the fact that the membership is Leave inclined, which leaves Give the most likely. Except for the fact that who could trust him?

Fourth, the November EU Summit will not happen.

Fifth, the EU, looking into an abyss that it would rather not face will offer to extend the Article 50 notice period. May will accept, even at the cost of including the UK in the EU elections next summer. The reasoning on all parts will be that a new UK Tory government (they cannot be forced from office at present) must be given the chance to negotiate for itself, and without Article 50 extension that would not be possible.

Thereafter? Then it gets harder. A Leave Tory will try to renegotiate. The EU will not wear it. A new impasse would be reached. Article 50 would be extended again and a new referendum will be offered. The question will be whether to accept the deal on the table (no one could ignore it) or stay. I cannot see a leave option getting through the Commons.

The likelihood is that the vote would be stay.

But suppose, instead, that somehow a vote was offered that compared no deal and the deal now on the table? That vote would be the deal on the table. I have no doubt of that. 25% to 30% would vote no deal: the rest would be pragmatic compromisers.

Is there an option where we get to leave with no deal, as one rather excited Leaver said to me was the only possible outcome now? I cannot see it. Not with no more than 15% of the Commons, very few of the Lords and a majority of the country not wanting it: there is no chance of that. And that is most especially because the EU will seek to avoid it, hence Article 50 extensions.

What then? I'm told on the grapevine that Leavers will not accept this outcome: civil disturbance is likely. I think that is possible. Hence the route to a coalition; a national government after an almost inevitable general election as the Commons fails to agree again - or is pulled down by such a coalition acting to do so. Then there will be the fundamental reforms to make sure that UK politics will never again present people with three options in England and Wales that almost no one finds especially palatable. The Scots are in a different place, of course.

And I should add, in all this the move towards another Scottish referendum is almost inevitable, and likely to pass - just to escape the mayhem.

Who will lead that Coalition? Caroline Lucas, most likely. Precisely because she would not be from any major player in it.

And if that all sounds like wild fantasy, maybe it is. But we've not been here before.

And there's one but I do suggest is taken very seriously. Right now, the need to prepare for disorder should be high on the government's priorities: the risk is real.

Brexit, business and uncertainty

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/11/2018 - 6:40pm in

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Economics, Europe

Many months ago I was invited to speak to the Chartered Institute of Management Accountant's east of England conference on the opportunities arising from Brexit. Little could they have known the significance of the date. I duly turned up having read as much of the draft as I could, literally overnight. As I was talking ministerial heads were rolling. These slides, which to some degree summarise what I said, supported my presentation, which was heavily business focused and concentrated on the risks and uncertainties and not the opportunities, of which I see few:

Taking back control - the real opportunities uncertainties in Brexit

  • Richard Murphy FCA
  • Professor of Practice in International Political Economy, City, University of London

What is Brexit?

  • I wish I could tell you
  • Despite yesterday’s announcement we do not know we have a Brexit deal
  • The Cabinet is divided
  • The Tories are divided
  • Labour’s demands look to have been met
  • France, Spain and the Netherlands are unhappy
  • The DUP are outraged
  • Jacob Rees-Mogg is apoplectic
  • We have by no means got a deal as yet

What might Brexit mean?

  • How can I tell you?
  • As yet we do not know
  • If we get this deal:
  • We stay in the Customs Union
  • We seem to stay in the Single Market
  • We follow EU rules
  • We cannot negotiate new trade deals as yet
  • We still make EU payments
  • There is no time limit for this to change
  • Call it BrexitINO
  • Brexit In Name Only

The reality of Brexit

  • This means we can conclude there is one sure outcome of Brexit
  • That is uncertainty
  • This is what I really want to explore
  • It is fun to look at the big issue stuff – and it is my day job to do so
  • But that’s not my focus today: my aim is to look at the microeconomic, tax and business issues arising

The first uncertainty - will the country keep going?

  • We may get a deal
  • We may get a transition
  • And we may not
  • Yesterday does not change that
  • As May said we now have three choices:
  • Her deal
  • Stay
  • No deal
  • I watch this stuff intently. It’s my belief that a ‘no deal’ is now 30% likely
  • That’s a big enough risk to plan for

Crisis planning in the face of the country ceasing to keep going

  • Will supply chains break?
  • Will critical suppliers fail?
  • Will key staff be available?
  • Will any be struck abroad?
  • The EU is planning for that risk – so should we
  • Will there be social disruption preventing normal patterns of working?
  • Crisis planning is required - and it would be negligent not to do it now

My suggested crisis plan

  • Preserve cash
  • Hedge currency risk - the pound could tumble, very heavily
  • Stockpile if that is likely to be needed
  • Keep all staff in the UK at the end of March
  • Be open to flexible working arrangements
  • Research alternative suppliers now. Make sure they are in the UK
  • Make sure you are insured. DO NOT DO IT IF YOU ARE NOT

The second uncertainty - admin burdens

  • For a party dedicated to cutting red tape Brexit is a change in tone
  • Everything is going to require a lot more admin after Brexit
  • No one can be sure what the changes are as yet but it is likely that these systems will change unless we stay:
  • VAT
  • Customs
  • Employment arrangements
  • Insurance
  • Travel
  • Industry-specific issues
  • Do you have the capacity to deal with this?

The third uncertainty - rapidly changing markets

  • There will be tariff changes on UK exports when we leave
  • If we leave without a deal they will be significant and immediate
  • The value of the pound will fall when we leave - by at least enough in aggregate to keep UK export prices constant in other countries
  • We will pick up the price - in reduced real revenue here
  • And we will also have the price of increased costs of imports to deal with too, with retaliatory tariffs also a possibility
  • The profitability of many businesses is going to be changed by this
  • Are you ready for that? Life is going to be harder. That’s what Brexit means.

How to manage rapidly changing markets

  • Open a subsidiary in the EU
  • Make your product in the EU
  • Earn revenue in euros or other currencies
  • Within the UK, seek alternatives to imports
  • Find new domestic markets. Create import substituting products
  • Face the reality that Brexit was about ending globalisation - the home market is what it is all about now

The fourth uncertainty - political risk

  • I said I would not do macroeconomics. But I work in a department if international relations. I will do that instead
  • Brexit is inherently politically unstable.
  • It tries to recreate the 1945 - 1975 era when the UK was run by a national, apolitical, civil service in the interests of national business and the majority of the population - and not a powerful elite.
  • This worked. But only because Britain was isolated from the world by international agreements on the gold standard, Breton Woods institutions and the remnants of empire. None of those now exist.
  • The reality is that a Trump style outcome is more likely - a national administration works for the benefit of British business and an international financial elite. But the population who voted for Brexit will be alienated by that. So it is unstable.
  • Worse, as government fails to manage Brexit a new and unstable Trump like elite will take over the instruments of government and run them for the benefit of a financial elite and claim they are doing so for the mass of the population. That is fascism. That has never proved to be stable.
  • None of these scenarios are stable.
  • Can you manage that?

The fifth uncertainty

  • Getting a good night’s sleep
  • Good luck with that
  • It’s not on the cards

What I think Labour should be saying on Europe

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/11/2018 - 5:41pm in

I have been challenged to say what I think Labour should be doing regarding the EU, given that many Lexiteers seem too think that they hold the only rational position on this issue, even if it amounts to running away.

It so happens I know Jeremy Corbyn is addressing EU socialists in December so let me suggest what I think he should be saying to them.

Corbyn should firstly recognise that he would love a general election - but that he may not get it.

In that case he should say he is committed to a second EU referendum in the UK. And he should commit Labour to fighting that referendum campaign on the basis that it wants to stay in the EU - to provide the UK with the stability that it so obviously needs - but on the basis that he will fight tooth and nail for reform of the EU, because that is what his principles demand.

That requires that Corbyn should say what he thinks is wrong with the EU, which led people in the UK to reject it. These issues are likely to include:

  • Inappropriate state aid controls that prevent the creation of stable mixed-economies, full employment and anti-recessionary measures that financial crises can require;
  • Inappropriate and unjustified budget controls which economic theory cannot support;
  • Rules that prevent direct state funding by central banks;
  • Rules that make the control of migration within the EU hard, for states suffering migratory loss and those with significant immigration, and the need to create new mechanisms to support people to stay in their places of normal residence.

Then he has to say why he wants to do this. This has to be because he wants to provide the stimulus to deliver the industrial strategy that he outlined to the Labour Party conference this autumn, and which he believes is also required across Europe, because the evidence is very strong that these policies are much more powerful when they take place in parallel.

That strategy did of course talk about some renationalisation - which pays for itself and takes rent seeking and not competition out of markets that have failed because they have become controlled by oligopolists acting against the interests of consumers - which is the exact opposite of what the EU should stand for.

But it’s also about delivering a strategy for green investment that delivers jobs in every constituency through local investment in renewable energy, insulation and local alternatives to carbon-intensive transport. These are justified by the need to meet the demand to control emissions that cause climate change.

He must then say that this cannot happen without state support. The private sector has not shown the willing to deliver and the pretence that it might should be abandoned; when markets fail the state should be allowed to deliver instead. This though requires the change in budget rules; funding rules and state aid rules.

In summary, his argument should be that we face local, national, European and international crises on climate change, meeting people’s needs locally and building sustainable economies. These issues can only be managed and coordinated at international level - because that is where the impact of climate on our combined futures that should be the focus of every politician’s concern is bound to be. But it also requires local management of action to deliver the appropriate solutions. That then requires a fundamental change in EU thinking so that it becomes the enabler of state-supported change that markets cannot supply but which are essential for our survival and which as a result requires a change in the rules that I have noted.

And, Corbyn should add, the multiplier effect of such change is, in any case, likely to make it self-funding over time, whilst the stimulus and political momentum it would supply should create the basis for new, sustainable, employment and the development of long-term skills in communities raving for them - and in the process build the international solidarity on common objectives that the EU should supply if it is to have political relevance for all the people in all members states, and so justify its existence as an entity that can create wellbeing over, above and beyond what any state can achieve by itself.

This, I suggest is what Corbyn should say.

I can live in hope.

Labour’s Brexit dilemma

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/11/2018 - 5:39pm in

Labour set six tests a Brexit Deal had to meet to gain its support. These require:

  • Fair migration system for UK business and communities
  • Retaining strong, collaborative relationship with EU
  • Protecting national security and tackling cross-border crime
  • Delivering for all nations and regions of the UK
  • Protecting workers' rights and employment protections
  • Ensuring same benefits currently enjoyed within single market

I have read some of the Brexit documentation overnight. It could be argued that, so soft is the Brexit offered and so open-ended the commitment to staying aligned with the EU, that these terms may well have been met, for now, impossible as that seemed to be when Keir Starmer suggested them.

In that case Labour is in trouble. It can’t support the No Deal some commentators on here from the Left appear to so desperately want and which Labour is absolutely certain not to deliver.

Nor is it likely to support the government. Then it shares the blame.

There will be some frantic reading of the 585 page main text to find distinctions, I suspect, probably going on right now.

Otherwise, as I will argue in my next blog post, Labour really has to argue to stay and reform. It is the only credible position, not least because this way it achieves control, and that is the only thing this deal does not deliver.

But let me also be clear what it does not deliver. It comes nowhere near the Lexiteers dream of removing restrictions on state aid, allowing flexible financing and permitting nationalisation at will. But Labour never asked for those things, even if it should have been. And as a result, and as I will note in the next blog, the only way those can be secured is by staying in and demanding them, which is precisely why the Lexiteers have their arguments wrong.

Kalecki and Keynes on the loanable funds fallacy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/11/2018 - 9:17am in

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Economics

It should be emphasized that the equality between savings and investment … will be valid under all circumstances. In particular, it will be independent of the level of the rate of interest which was customarily considered in economic theory to be the factor equilibrating the demand for and supply of new capital. In the present […]

BrexitINO

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/11/2018 - 8:16am in

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Economics

The more I hear of May's deal tonight the more I think it looks like BrexitINO - Brexit In Name Only.

We're leaving.

But staying in the Customs Union.

And Single Market.

Seemingly indefinitely.

And subject to all the EU's rules as a result.

The only thing that has changed is we have lost any control.

But I strongly suspect we will be paying nonetheless.

We always knew May was a Remainer.

But not that much a Remainer.

And there is the minor hurdle of parliament to overcome.

Except it might actually comply with Labour's six tests.

We'll have to see.

But now the question is 'why do it at all in that case?'

You can see why the Brexiteers are angry.

 

Kalecki on wage-led growth

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 13/11/2018 - 9:33pm in

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Economics

One of the main features of the capitalist system is the fact that what is to the advantage of a single entrepreneur does not necessarily benefit all entrepreneurs as a class. If one entrepreneur reduces wages he is able ceteris paribus to expand production; but once all entrepreneurs do the same thing — the result […]

‘I’ Newspaper and Sunday Times Claim David Miliband May Lead Blairite ‘Centrist’ Party

Today’s I newspaper for the 12th November 2018 also ran an article following a piece in yesterday’s Sunday Times, which suggested that the launch of the new, Blairite ‘centrist’ party is coming nearer, and that David Miliband, the brother of the former Labour leader Ed, may return to Britain to head it. The article by Richard Vaughan stated

David Miliband is mulling a return to frontline politics as head of a new centrist party, it has emerged.

Plans are under way to launch a fresh political party, with speculation mounting it could be just months away.

Labour MPs, unhappy with the direction of the party under Jeremy Corbyn, are believed to be in talks about forging a breakaway party from the centre ground and looking at Mr. Miliband to lead it.

According to the Sunday Times, the former foreign secretary is eyeing a return to London, having spent the last four years running the aid charity, the International Rescue Committee in New York.

The newspaper also reported that Mr. Miliband met prominent Labour donors Sir Trevor Chinn and Jonathan Goldstein.

His decision to leave UK politics followed his unexpected defeat to his brother Ed for the Labour leadership in 2010. Mr. Miliband sparked rumours of a return in the summer wyhen he said in an interview that he brought PG Tips and Marmite back to his home in the US, adding: “Of course I’ll come back. It’s my home. I’m British.”

Centrist Labour backbenchers still view Mr. Miliband as the “king over the water”, harbouring hopes that he will step back into the political limelight under a new party.

It comes amid persistent reports that Tony Blair is in discussions to create a new party, with suggestions that his one-time political apprentice could take on the job of leading it. Another favourite to lead such a party is the former business secretary Chuka Umunna, who has been one of the most vocal critics of the Labour leadership.

Should there be any chance of a new centrist party being established in time for a general election before Britain leaves the EU, then it would have to be launched before the end of January.

Under parliamentary procedure, 28 January is the latest possible date that an election can be called before Brexit day on 29 March. (p. 15).

Okay, there’s a lot to unpack here. Let’s get started. Firstly, the source of this bit of speculation – and speculation is all it is, rather than news – is the Sunday Times. This is the entirely trustworthy establishment paper, owned by the honest, deeply moral newspaper magnate, Rupert Murdoch, that libeled Mike as an anti-Semite last year. And it is this paper, which is repeating the nonsensical smear that the former Labour leader, Michael Foot, was a KGB spy. Despite the fact that when they ran this story 20 or so years ago, Foot defended his name in the courts, sued ’em for libel, and won. One of the reasons the rag is repeating the smear is because Foot’s dead, and the dead can’t sue for libel. But there is no further corroborating evidence, the charge is still malicious nonsense, and the editor publishing this is still a complete slimeball. In my opinion, of course.

Now let’s attack the claims about the proposed ‘centrist’ party, which might have members from ‘centrist’ Labour MPs. Firstly, there is nothing centrist about the Labour right. They are Thatcherite infiltrators, who follow their former leader Tony Blair, in rejecting socialism and embracing Thatcherite neoliberalism. Thatcher hailed Blair as her greatest achievement. The Blairites thus stand for more privatization, including that of the NHS, and a similar attack on the welfare state and workers’ rights. Blair and his cronies continued Thatcher’s policy of ‘less eligibility’, taken over from the workhouses, to make applying for benefits as difficult and humiliating as possible in order to deter people from claiming them. And I personally know people who didn’t sign on when they unemployed, because of the degrading way they were treated. It was the Blairites too, who introduced the work capability tests for those applying for disability benefit. This was on the advice of the American insurance fraudsters, Unum, based on spurious medical research, which has been criticized as scientific nonsense. Again, this was following the Tories. Unum had been advising Peter Lilley, when he was their health secretary in the 1990s. Lilley introduced the Private Finance Initiative as a deliberate policy to open up the health service to private enterprise. And this was following Thatcher, who would have liked to privatise the NHS wholesale, but was only prevented by a cabinet revolt. As for the unemployed, the Blairites’ contempt for the jobless was clearly shown more recently when one of them – can’t remember whether it was Rachel Phillips or Reed, said a few years ago that if Labour got into power, they would be even harder on the unemployed than the Tories. Which is a very good argument for making reselection of MPs in the party mandatory.

The Labour centrists are nothing of the kind. They are actually extreme right. The real moderates are Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour left, who are a return to the Social Democratic politics of the traditional Labour party. They are definitely not ‘Communists’, ‘Trotskyites’, ‘Stalinists’ or whatever other insults Joan Ryan and the press hurl at them.

Now let’s analyze this ‘centrist’ party that the press have been speculating about for nearly a year. At the moment, it has zero policies and precious few members. One of those, who was part of the project, fell out with the others and left. The early newspaper reports stated that it was being launched with the aid of donors. This should ring warning bells with everyone concerned with the corruption of today’s corporate state. Blair’s Labour party was a part of the corporate takeover of politics. They took funds from corporate donors, like David Sainsbury, and put them into government posts, where they influenced government policy to their benefit. George Monbiot describes the way this corrupted the Labour government and its policies in his book, Captive State. It looks like the centrist party, if it is ever launched, will be intended to maintain the dominance of corporate power over the political parties, against Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party, which has actually expanded its membership to become the largest socialist party in Europe and which actually represents the wishes of grassroots members. Its other policy seems to be that Britain should remain in the EU. I believe this, but the party otherwise represents too much of a threat to ordinary people’s lives, health and livelihoods to ever be worth voting for.

The party’s Blairite foundations also mean it is going to be Atlanticist in geopolitical orientation. That is, it will support America and American policies. Blair and the other architects of New Labour were members of BAP, or the British-American Project for the Successor Generation. This was a Reaganite project to recruit future political and media leaders, give them sponsored study trips to America, so that they would return staunch supporters of the Atlantic alliance. Blair’s pro-American stance could clearly be seen by the way many of the companies lining up to run Britain’s privatized industries or manage what was left of the state sector, including the NHS, were American. Miliband is part of this. I really don’t think it’s any accident that he scarpered off to America after he lost the leadership contest to his brother. And Blair’s own extreme right-wing views is shown by the fact that he accepted an invitation to attend an American Conservative convention at the request of former president George Bush.

The other policy is likely to be staunch support for Israel and its continuing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. I don’t know who Jonathan Goldstein is, but one of the possible funders of the new party, Trevor Chinn, was revealed a few months ago as one of the big donors to the Israeli lobby in the Labour party, giving money to Labour Friends of Israel. He’s one of the people behind the Israel lobbyists and their smears of anyone standing up for the Palestinians as anti-Semites. These smears are vile, libelous and deeply offensive. Those smeared as anti-Semites include not just non-Jewish anti-racists, like Mike, but also self-respecting secular and Torah-observant Jews, like Jackie Walker, Martin Odoni, Tony Greenstein and so on. Some of those they’ve smeared are the children of Holocaust survivors, and people, who’ve suffered real racist and anti-Semitic attacks.

If launched, this supposedly centrist party will represent nothing but corporate greed, especially of transatlantic multinationals. Oh yes, and support for the Likudniks and other members of Benjamin Netanyahu’s increasingly Fascistic government coalition, and their persecution of Israel’s indigenous Arabs. It will not support the welfare state, the NHS or the rights of British working people to decent jobs, working conditions, dignity and pay.

That’s if this wretch party ever gets launched at all. It’s been debated for about year now, and the Labour right have been threatening to desert the party and found a new one for even longer. So far, fortunately, they haven’t done so. And it’s possible they never will. Mike over at Vox Political published a piece a little while ago pointing out that new parties find it very difficult to establish themselves as major forces in politics. UKIP was founded in the 1990s, and despite decades of hard campaigning, it’s still -fortunately – pretty much a fringe party. And some of us can remember the Labour party split in the 1980s, when the right-wing rebels left to form the SDP. There was much noise then about them ‘breaking the mould’ of British politics. The result was that they had no more than a handful of MPs, and after forming an alliance with the Liberals then merged with them to become the Lib Dems. Which remains smaller than either Labour or the Tories.

As for right-wing Labour MPs splitting off on their own, Mike showed very clearly why they wouldn’t really want to do that, either. Independents also struggle to get themselves elected. If they ever left the party to run as independents, they’d almost certainly lose their seats at the next election.

The centrist party will thus very likely be a complete non-starter, funded by businessmen to maintain their power over British politics at the expense of the NHS, the welfare state and working people, and preserve British alliance with right-wing parties and business elites in America and Israel. But it is being touted by the newspapers like the Sunday Times and the I, because they fear and hate Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party, and see it as a way of destroying it and the chance of real change for working people in this country.

Outcry over Firms Microchipping Workers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 12/11/2018 - 11:30pm in

I found this very ominous story in today’s I, for the 12th November 2018. It seems some firms are inserting microchips into their employees, and employers’ groups and trade unions have rightly come together to condemn it. The article reads

Both the employers and trade unions representative bodies have expressed alarm at reports that UK firms are considering implanting staff with microchips for security. UK firm BioTeq says it has already fitted 150 implants while Swedish firm Biohax has claimed it is in discussions with several UK firms. (p.2).

This is deeply sinister stuff, straight out of the X-Files. Never mind the bonkers conspiracy theories about aliens inserting implants into our bodies to control us, ordinary human capitalism is beginning to do that. From the article it seems that the chips are simply there to make sure employees are who they say they are, but this is nevertheless a real totalitarian move. As it stands, employees in some companies are very closely monitored. Private Eye printed a story a few months ago about how the weirdo Barclay Twins, who own the Torygraph, wished to have motion sensors attached to their hacks desks to make sure they weren’t moving around too much. They had to abandoned this intrusive and hare-brained scheme because it was resented so much by the hacks. Nevertheless, if this goes ahead uncontested, I can see more firms adopting the practice, right up to the government. After all, what better way to cut down on crime, identity theft and illegal immigration than have everyone implanted with a microchip containing all their biographical and biometric details. Blair’s government was, after all, considering passing legislation to establish compulsory electronic identity cards carrying biometric information. And I’ve no doubt other, deeply authoritarian regimes around the world would be all too enthusiastic about adopting the policy.

It also reminds me of the one part of the millennialist beliefs held by Fundamentalist Christians about the End Times and the one world global superstate they’re afraid of. In this myth, which has been around since the 1970s, once the global Satanic dictatorship is established with the Antichrist as its head, it will order barcodes to be marked on everyone’s hands and forehead. Those who don’t have the barcodes will be unable to buy or sell. It’s how they believed the prophecy in the Book of Revelation in the Bible that the Antichrist would have everyone marked with the number 666 on their hands and foreheads would come true in the modern world.

I really don’t believe in the religious right’s millennialist fears. One interpretation of the Book of Revelation is that it’s a coded description of the persecution the early church was experiencing under the Roman Emperor Nero. Both the Romans and Jews used various number codes, in which letters of the alphabet had certain numerical values. These could be used in ordinary secular ways, as well as in number mysticism, in which people tried to discern a deeper meaning in religious or mystical texts through adding up the numerical value of particular words. 666 corresponds to ‘Neron’, a form of Nero. He’s also believed to have been the person described in the Book of Revelation as ‘the great beast’, because as a young prince, before he got into power, he and his cronies thought it was jolly japes for him to go round Rome dressed as a beast and attack people. I think this is probably the right way to interpret that part of the Bible, rather than seeing it as a literal prediction of an imminent end of the world.

But even so, when faced with reports that the firms are trying to implant their workers with microchips, and Blair and authoritarian politicians after him would like to make it compulsory for us all to carry biometric electronic identity cards, I do wonder if the Fundamentalists have a point.

Does Blair’s Money Come from Israeli Settlers

I found this photographic joke about Tony Blair in Private Eye’s edition for the 30th September – 13th October 2011 on page 5.

If you can’t read it, click on it to enlarge. The piccie shows the former leader of the Labour party and the man, who launched the illegal and bloody invasion of Iraq saying ‘I’m laughing all the way to the West Bank’. The caption above reads ‘Blair’s Mystery Millions’.

Blair’s money is still very much a mystery. A recent Private Eye quoted one tax official as saying that his financial interests seemed to be hidden by a series of holding companies in a manner that was extremely unusual and complicated. The West Bank referred to in the photo is almost certainly the Israeli West Bank, part of Palestine, which has been under Israeli occupation since 1967. And if that is where Blair’s money comes from, it’s very unlikely it comes from the Palestinians, for all that Blair tried to curry favour with British Muslims by telling the world how much he respects their religion and regularly read the Qur’an.

Blair and the Labour Right that follows his Thatcherite, neoliberal ideology, always were close to the Israel lobby. He met Lord Levy, who became his chief fundraiser, at a party in the Israeli embassy. It was Levy, who raised the donations from Jewish businesspeople that allowed Blair to be independent of the unions and to defy and increase the legislation intended to crush them. Labour always has had Jewish members – one the best known of the Jewish Labour MPs was the veteran and respected Manny Shinwell. Jewish businesses also donated to the Labour party before Blair. Harold Wilson was given considerable support by the Jewish members of Manchester’s business community. What made Blair unusual wasn’t that he had Jewish supporters and donors, but that they were Zionists, whose contributions to Blair’s finances appeared to have been designed to influence party policy. Blair’s close friend and spin doctor, Peter Mandelson, said that Blair had ended the ‘cowboys and Indians’ attitude to Israel, and was a staunch supporter. Or words to that effect.

And Blair’s Zionism was also reflected very strongly in his foreign policy. Despite claims to be impartial, Blair always supported the Israelis over the Palestinians. He and Bush followed the NeoCon agenda in the invasion of Iraq. Not only was this intended to enrich western multinationals and Saudi oil interests through the seizure of the Iraqi oil industry and other lucrative state assets. It was also to aid Israel through the toppling of Saddam Hussein, who provided aid and support to the Palestinians. And the Neoconservative project was first launched in 1969 by William Kristol in an article in an American Jewish magazine discussing ways to increase wider American support for Israel.

If some of Blair’s money did come from the West Bank, then it seems very much that it comes from Israeli settlers and the businesses they have set up in contravention of international law. It’s these businesses that are target of the BDS campaign, which demands that people and institutions boycott and divest from Israeli businesses in the Occupied Territories. The campaign has, so far, resulted in a 1/3 of these businesses closing down, though the construction of illegal settlements and the persecution and maltreatment of the indigenous Arab population continues. And if that’s the case, then it adds another explanation for the Blairites’ determination to silence, persecute and purge those critical of Israel from the party. They, or their former leader, have personal financial reasons to fear Jeremy Corbyn and a Labour government that believes in equality and justice for the Palestinians.

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