I am honoured to represent the people of Islington North in taking their concerns and needs to Parliament. We have a vibrant and diverse constituency to be proud of, and I enjoy supporting the good work that we do together.  For many years I’ve fought for basic rights such as affordable housing, health care and education for all, as well as toward protecting our human rights: both within the borough and the UK, as well as for those who struggle and suffer so much in developing countries.

The great changes in our society, from votes for women, anti discrimination laws, support for the disabled, and so on,  all came from ordinary people making demands through their Members of Parliament.  It is not about you, or me, but it is about us.

Together we can continue to ensure Islington remains a borough to be proud of.


29 Jan

In Parliament: Iraq Debate 29/01/2015

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): Main speech

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I was worried for a moment that you were going to come up with the dreaded four-minute warning, so I am obliged to you.

It is a pleasure to be able to speak in this debate, but it is a pretty big indictment of our Parliament that there are hardly any Members here to take part in what ought to be an incredibly serious discussion, and a process of very serious self-criticism of the failure of Parliament both in 2003 and since to hold to account those who took crucial decisions on our behalf, the consequences of which all of us will live with for the rest of our lives, and the population of this country, and indeed of western Europe and the USA, are going to live with for many, many decades and generations to come. What happened in 2003 was a seminal disaster.

I respect the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart) for his knowledge, his interest and his commitment, but I profoundly disagree with his analysis. It is essentially that we were good imperialists, then we became weak imperialists, and now we have got to be better imperialists. I have two messages. The first is that we cannot afford it. The second is that the lesson from the disaster of Auschwitz in the 70th anniversary of its liberation should surely be to say never again—never let racism raise its ugly head, be it against Jews, Muslims or anybody else—and also that we must learn a fundamental lesson: that the crazy triumphalism of the treaty of Versailles and that whole period in the 1920s led to the growth of the Nazis and to the disasters. The whole middle east region is still living with the disasters of Versailles—of the Sykes-Picot agreement and the borders we inherited.

Rory Stewart: The danger of the hon. Gentleman’s anti-imperialist rhetoric is that we are not going to come to terms with how to prevent genocides in the future. What is he proposing in terms of reform, energy, compassion and confidence to deal with an Auschwitz-Birkenau, a Bosnia or a Rwanda in the future, if all he has to say is that we are a small country that cannot afford to do anything in the world?

Jeremy Corbyn: I propose a process of international law, a process of human rights engagement, a process of truth and honesty, and process whereby we do not denigrate whole peoples and turn the other way when human rights abuses take place.

On a lesser example, but nevertheless an important one, we are apparently more interested in selling weapons to Saudi Arabia than we are in human rights in Saudi Arabia. That example can be multiplied in country after country across the world. If we were serious about human rights, we would not provide the Government of Bahrain with equipment to kill and injure demonstrators who oppose what they do. There has to be some honesty in the whole of our foreign policy, and if this debate does anything to make us start to think more seriously about foreign policy, rather than racing headlong into spending £100 million on Trident, developing more weapons and yet more weapons for our armoury, that will be something.

We have had inquiry after inquiry on Iraq. Parliament showed itself to be a failure and could not do it, and then there was the Butler inquiry and a Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry. We ended up with the Chilcot inquiry.

In 2006 I voted for an Opposition motion, despite the endeavours of the Labour Whips Office. I was not that bothered with its endeavours at that time—or on one or two other occasions for that matter—because I thought setting up an inquiry was the right thing to do. However, I do not think it is the job of Parliament to pass its duties on to somebody else and then complain vaguely when they do not report while saying that we are not going to interfere with the inquiry. This really is our failure. There should have been a serious inquiry, judicial-led in my opinion, with counsel that could have asked some really good questions of Tony Blair, the Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) and a whole lot of other people. Michael Mansfield QC would have been a very good interrogator, and I think that after a few days of interrogation by him we would have gained far more truth than we did from these showman-like trips by Tony Blair to the inquiry and his lucrative tours around the world to say he would do the same again. He clearly has not learned the lessons from this.

I remember those debates very well. I am chair of the Stop the War coalition, and I have been involved in every demonstration I can think of against this war. Indeed, I spoke to that million-strong audience in Hyde park on 15 February 2003. There was something amazing about that day. I was there with many others in this House on that huge platform looking out on Hyde park, with 1 million people and hundreds of thousands more who could not even get into the park. That was after we had been told by the Cabinet Office that Hyde park was not available and we should hold the meeting in Battersea park. I resisted the temptation to go into Battersea park on a Saturday afternoon, however, and we persisted with Hyde park. I saw people there who politically profoundly disagree with me, and people who had never been at a public meeting or demonstration in their lives, but who were moved to oppose the war because of the obvious lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and why we had to go to war. Everyone there learned a lesson that day. The cynicism that we meet on the doorstep as we approach the next election is in part due to the contempt shown by Parliament on that day.

I shall not go on much longer, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I just want to say this. The idea that Members were not aware of the misinformation concerning Iraq really does not cut much ice. We had the dodgy dossier. I remember arriving in Parliament at 8 am to read that heroic document; I was the first to arrive at the downstairs Table Office. I knocked on the door at 1 minute to 8 and the people there would not open it, but the moment the door opened at 8 o’clock I put my hand in and grabbed two copies. I gave one to Glen Rangwala, an excellent academic from Cambridge, and I kept the other for myself. He went off to read his, and I went to my office to read mine. When we spoke on the phone 20 minutes later, we said, “This thing is utter nonsense. Who could possibly believe this stuff?” But the House did, and some members of the Security Council did, although France, Russia, China and a lot of other countries did not.

I also remember the extraordinary pressure that MPs were put under to vote in that debate. A number of us who could reasonably be described as Iraq sceptics met Tony Blair in a room at the back of the Chamber. After we had been around the track several times, with him not wishing to engage in the discussion and others wishing to do so, he started looking at his watch and saying, “We’ve got to go now.” I said, “Tony, just one question: why are we doing this?” He slapped his hand on the table and said, “It’s the right thing to do. That’s why we’re doing it.” When I said, “That’s not an answer”, he said, “That’s the only one you’re going to get.” That was the enthralling answer that we got from him.

The lesson surely must be that when the Foreign Affairs Committee interviews Sir John Chilcot next week, they must ask him how he is getting on with obtaining records of the barbecue discussion between Blair and Bush and the correspondence that took place, along with the handwritten notes that civil servants and the Foreign Office maybe did not know about. Perhaps a lot of people did not know about them, because I understand that it was part of Tony Blair’s charm and style to do things differently from anyone else so that people did not know what was going on. I also hope that the Committee will get from him an exact date for the publication of the report, but I think I shall be disappointed when it is published. I suspect that it will be full of redactions and that we will have to read a million words before we discover which bits have been redacted. This issue is not going to go away. We need to get to the truth, and we need a war powers Act to ensure that every MP is involved in decisions to send British troops abroad to war.

To follow up on something that the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border said, I agree that we need a serious debate on foreign policy and on our place in the world. Other countries that once had massive empires have learned these lessons. I recall being in Vienna in December when the Austrian Government proudly said, “Our Government have no nuclear weapons, want no nuclear weapons and will never have any nuclear weapons. We want to be a force for peace in the world.” That was once the centre of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Most of the other European countries that were once the centre of empires have learned lessons. Maybe the disaster of Iraq and the growth of al-Qaeda, ISIS and all those other forces that have been let loose by the disaster of the Iraq war will provide a lesson that we will have to learn the hard way, but if we do not learn it, we will suffer by having to repeat it again and again. I do not want to go to war memorials. I do not want to go to memorial services. I want us to be a real influence for peace, for justice and for human rights around the world. We do not achieve that by lying to Parliament. We do not achieve that by invading countries that do not have the weapons it was claimed they had.

Several hon. Members

rose—

29 Jan

Morning Star: The Thirst for an End to Austerity is Growing

The Greek example shows people are fed up with being told ‘there is no alternative’

At Prime Minister’s questions this week I asked David Cameron if he’d congratulated the new Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on the election results and if he thought there were any lessons to be learned from the Greek peoples’ clear rejection of austerity politics.

As ever, the Prime Minister waffled on, claiming that Britain was going through a period of great economic success.

The imposition of austerity and privatisation in Greece have led to unemployment rates of more than 25 per cent, the destruction of public services, and the privatisation of many pubic assets — largely being snapped up by foreign-owned finance institutions.

Just ahead of Sunday’s dramatic election there was a huge flight of capital by the very rich who feared the new government would start collecting the taxes they have routinely avoided for many years.

Negotiations with the European Central Bank and the European Union are going to be very tough, so it’s essential that the Left across Europe supports the democratic wishes of the Greek people; that is, a very different political path than the one of austerity that has been so devastating there and across Europe.

It’s worth remembering that austerity politics enrich the already wealthy, and restructures society into something more resembling pre-war Britain, rolling back the gains made since the introduction of the welfare state.

While Britain is not a member of the euro, it is clear that the austerity strategy promoted by new Labour and later by the coalition — capping welfare spending and slashing local government and most central government departments — has resulted in public-sector job losses and their replacement with low-paid and often zero-hours contract positions.

As Dennis Skinner pointed out to the Prime Minister, the biggest queues in Britain are at foodbanks, and this has to change.

Last week a number of Labour MPs signed a three-point public policy statement calling for the Labour Party to rethink its economic strategy.

Wages have fallen 8 per cent in real terms since 2010.  Unemployment is still two million and household debt is over £2 trillion and rising.

The Tory answer is further cuts and reducing the benefit cap still further.  If the Tories are re-elected there is every expectation that poverty will get worse, and that foodbanks will become a way of existence for hundreds of thousands more people.

Our statement calls for a £30 billion investment package, through the publicly owned banks, to help investment and therefore job creation.

A touchstone for the failure of privatisation is the railways.  Since their privatisation, the public subsidy for the rail network has gone up by 300 per cent to £1.2bn a year.  Since 2010 rail fares have increased by 25 per cent. 

Investment in the rail infrastructure is made by Network Rail, which borrows heavily to do so — and that is a public debt.  Network Rail is wholly government owned and therefore its profitability or otherwise is a matter of public concern.

However the big money on railways is made through the train operating companies, the sub contracts and the leasing companies.  Only last week Everholt Leasing, which owns a large proportion of the trains, was sold to a number of overseas banks.

East Coast Main Line was created by Direct Rail, a publicly owned arm of Network Rail after the previous franchise collapsed.

The coalition in its death throes is about to hand a long-term franchise to a consortium, including Virgin Trains, to take over this lucrative route.

The public fully understands that their investment in the railway network has made a lot of the private sector extremely wealthy on the back of public investment and rip-off fares.

The case for public ownership is absolutely overwhelming and should be seized with both hands by the Labour Party.


On February 4th CND will be presenting a letter to Downing Street on the opening day of the meeting of the permanent five members of the UN security council in preparation for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Review Conference in New York in May.

It’s not complicated. When the existing nuclear weapons states signed up to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, there were two fundamental requirements — that non-nuclear states would not acquire nuclear weapons, and that the existing holders would not export weapons technology and would take steps toward their own disarmament.

The evidence that any nuclear explosion anywhere in the world would set off a chain reaction of environmental and food supply disasters that would affect the whole planet is overwhelming.

The demand is that the permanent five members of the security council take a lead and that Britain in particular rejects the replacement of Trident.

The other issue that must be addressed is the lack of progress on establishing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, which would require Israel to negotiate with neighbouring states.

The danger is obvious. If these negotiations and this conference do not take place it could set off a terrifying arms race in the most unstable part of the world.


This Saturday, there is to be a housing march to City Hall.  This march is a cri de coeur from many who have seen council estates demolished to make way for “regeneration” schemes which only enrich developers while moving working-class people out, and thus turning London into a playground of the few who can afford to buy property at increasingly extortionate prices.

Meanwhile those in the private rented sector all over London who are in low-paid jobs, and who qualify for housing benefit, are being forced out, either to distant suburbs or in many cases out of London altogether.

Before our very eyes London is changing, as the working class are driven away from the city they’ve always lived in.

The solutions are twofold — first, end the scandal of right to buy in areas of high housing stress, and second, invest in council housing.

The other crucial policy change has to be THE proper regulation of the private rented sector, including rent controls that would ensure stability for tenants.

Rent regulation was abolished by the government in 1980 and surely it’s time to turn the page on this appalling aspect of Thatcherism.

 

28 Jan

In Parliament: PMQs: Greece / Syriza 28/01/2015

Jeremy Corbyn:  Has the Prime Minister had a chance to place a call to Alexis Tsipras, the new Prime Minister of Greece, in order to congratulate him on winning the election, and also to learn from him why the people of Greece have finally said no to the imposition of the most appalling austerity, the destruction of their public services, high levels of unemployment, and deepening poverty? Will the Prime Minister use his good offices in the European Union to ensure that they are given the debt write-off they are so desperately seeking, so that Greece can be restored to the prosperity it deserves to enjoy?

The Prime Minister:  I have had the privilege of speaking to the new Greek Prime Minister; indeed, I asked him what his long-term economic plan was. What I think is absolutely key to recognise is that over the last four years we have seen the British deficit come down, and we have seen jobs created and the economy bigger than it was before the crash, whereas in Greece they have had repeated economic failures, and we can hardly blame them for wanting to take a different approach. I hope good sense will prevail on all sides, and, as I said to the Greek Prime Minister, there are other areas where we can work together, not least because Britain has led the world on tax transparency and making sure companies pay the taxes that they should—something that needs to happen in Greece as well as the rest of the European Union.

28 Jan

In Parliament: Mexico / Human Rights: 28/01/2015

Here is my main speech though I also intervened a number of times on other speakers which can be located on the Hansard website. but not included here.

Jeremy Corbyn: I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Cathy Jamieson) on securing this important debate. I am grateful to her and to the Minister for giving me a few minutes to say something.

I am chair of the all-party group for Mexico and vice-chair of the all-party human rights group. I have led a delegation of the Inter-Parliamentary Union to Mexico and visited the country on many occasions—most recently, last November. Furthermore, the all-party human rights group has convened a series of round-table meetings in which we involve Foreign Office officials, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Mexican embassy and the Mexican community in London, and we interact on human rights issues. We are trying to be positive and to make progress, and I hope that the Minister will tell us that this year of relations with Mexico will provide not simply a jamboree for trade and investment, but a serious look at the endemic, systemic human rights problems that exist in Mexico.

Since 2006, 100,000 people have been killed in Mexico in the supposed war on drugs. The number of people missing is difficult to quantify exactly, but is somewhere around 23,000, according to Amnesty, although many independent human rights groups in Mexico put the figure much higher than that. The disappearance of the 43 students at Ayotzinapa in Guerrero state was shocking because it was so brazen; it was shocking because they were taken off a bus and disappeared. The more the investigation goes on, the worse it gets. Every time the investigators look, they find another unmarked grave. Who is in those unmarked graves? Unaccompanied migrants from Guatemala trying to flee to the USA to gain a sustainable living, who have been killed by gangs, often in collusion with the local police. The police are, in turn, in collusion with local officials.

The sense of anger in Mexico is palpable. I was there in November, only a short time after the disappearances, and although I have been to Mexico many times, I have never seen so many people on the streets, so angry and so determined that there should be real political and judicial change. The President is under real pressure.

Among the problems in Mexico are the facts that there are 2,000 different police forces that do not talk to each other and 31 governors who do not talk to each other; disappearances are endemic in many states; and there is a close relationship between some of the politicians in some of those states with the gangs and the disappearances. There is also a problem with the virtual impunity of the armed forces. I hope that the Minister will address those issues in his response today and raise them in discussion with President Pena Nieto during the state visit at the beginning of March.

If there is to be a change in Mexico, it will, in part, be as a result of pressure from outside. I have some sympathy with Mexico, in that guns come south from the unregulated gun trade in Texas and other US states, while drugs produced in Colombia and other places come north. Mexico is therefore a bit of a transit place for all of that, so the issues must be dealt with in part from a wider perspective. I hope we will be able to put on some real pressure for improvements.

Changes have been proposed in the legal system, where British involvement and representation have introduced the idea of adversarial justice, rather than the Napoleonic form of magisterial justice. That is a step forward. However, there is also a need to listen more carefully to independent human rights groups in Mexico, rather than just to the Mexican Government and the Mexican human rights commission. In my experience, the independent human rights groups have much more of a finger on the button. They are prepared to prosecute cases, to take them to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and to bring about real change.

Mexico is a country of the most amazing history, contrasts and diversity, but it is also a place of great sadness. I conclude with this thought. One weekend, my wife and I were in Cuernavaca—a beautiful city not so far from Mexico City. As we arrived, we heard that 12 bodies had been suspended from a bridge and that the heads had been left by the side of the road. That was some kind of signal to somebody; that is the degree of human rights abuses, fear and threats in Mexico.

As a friend of Mexico, we should use our relationship with it to put on all the pressure we can for genuine human rights dialogue. We should also call Mexico to account when it comes to the UN Human Rights Council in March, so that the universal periodic review recommendations it said it was accepting are actually implemented and so that people in Mexico can develop their justice and human rights in their country.

22 Jan

Morning Star: Dealings in Faux Concern

The World Economic Forum is a poor attempt to appear humane by the few who are cheating the many, says JEREMY CORBYN

THE ill-named World Economic Forum is gathering once again in Davos, where hordes of delegates are invited to attend, dominated by kings, princes, presidents, prime ministers and large corporations.

One asks oneself first why Davos exists at all, and second, whether it isn’t some grand conspiracy by big business to interact with significant political figures, bypassing the slightly more democratic process of the United Nations.

Davos of course works on the basis that a gathering of the super-rich in a super-expensive and exclusive resort will be free from pesky demonstrators.

For politicians rubbing shoulders with the chief executives of the world’s major corporations, the only agenda will be that of market economics and capitalism — not the everyday realities for the majority of the world’s population.

The forum’s faux concern for the world’s environment is somewhat tempered by the arrival of 122 executive jets, not to mention the high living that goes on in that place.

However, Tony Blair delivered one of his pompous lectures about faith, only to be strongly questioned by one delegate on his decision to launch a war in Iraq in 2003.

Meanwhile, a thousand miles away in London, Sir John Chilcott has helpfully delayed publication of his report until the next parliament, which allows Blair another few months before either a secret deal between him and Bush is revealed, or his own lies to Parliament on the existence of weapons of mass destruction are exposed.

Oxfam, rather strangely, does attend the Davos summit — and indeed its chief executive Winnie Byanyima has been appointed as one of the six co-chairs of the forum.

The charity’s report on inequality around the world gives the stark figure that the richest 1% of the world’s population own 48% of its wealth (up from 44% in 2009) while the least well-off 80% own just 5.5% of it.  In number-crunching terms, that means that the wealth of just 85 people equals the wealth of 3.5 billion others.

Byanyima has argued that extreme inequality is a product of the economic policies adopted by various governments, which of course begs the question of why Oxfam would want to have anything to do with Davos.

Forbes magazine — which works for the richest and most powerful — challenges the Oxfam report, and its extraordinarily arrogant contributor Tim Worstall makes the point that he would fail a high school essay if it presented evidence in the manner that Oxfam does.

He claims that there have been significant increases in income for the poorest, as a justification for economic policies which are designed to concentrate wealth among the very richest.

If Blair is worried about what’s happening a thousand miles to the west in London, the whole conference is probably pretty alarmed at what’s happening a few hundred miles away in Greece, where Syriza — a left party contesting the Greek elections — is now leading in the opinion polls.

The country’s current government has obeyed every diktat from the European Central Bank, yet still finds itself with an unpayable debt, and huge numbers of unemployed people and barely functioning public services as a result.

Syriza’s opposition to the austerity package has been met with incredulity by much of the world’s financial press, who are desperate to see New Democracy win the election.

Greece is an interesting European example of what happens when the orthodox bankers say that the only way to deal with paying a debt is to impose austerity, privatise public services and lower wages — which of course then lowers tax income and demand in the economy as a whole.

Very tough questions have been put to Syriza about what it would do in office if the EU rejects its request to renegotiate the debt — and what the effect would be of reversing the policies of privatisation.

Their economic spokesman Euclid Tsakalotos has explained that a Syriza government would make demands on the European Central Bank, and that he expected them to accept the democratic decisions of the Greek people.

He also draws attention to the way in which the 1930s economic crisis was played out, with initially massive austerity programmes which created mass unemployment, followed by a consensus that investing in public services and people created jobs and improved living standards.

Syriza also points out that there is an urgent humanitarian crisis in energy supplies for the poorest people, plus a housing disaster with many homeless and unable to pay the increased taxes which have been levied to satisfy the country’s debt.

There is also a political lesson for the rest of Europe.  Pasok carried out the initial demands of the European Central Bank on the basis that they were protecting Greece and its democracy, and imposed cuts and austerity.

This led to their near-disappearance from the political scene in Greece, and the huge support for Syriza.

A Labour government elected in Britain in May will be faced with enormous political demands to adequately fund the NHS, help people get through the housing crisis, and deal with the consequences of Tory welfare reforms.

If Davos teaches us anything, it is that the super-rich and their tax havens have actually created greater and greater inequality in the world, and that this supranational club of the very rich economic elites is not a solution to the world’s problems.

In reality, it is the main cause of them.

 

15 Jan

Morning Star: Mike Marqusee’s Legacy

Losing a friend is always sad and tragic. Mike Marqusee has been suffering from a complex bone cancer for eight years and finally succumbed to it in St Joseph’s hospice in Hackney on Tuesday.

A fascinating and complex man, Mike was never afraid to deal with difficult questions, be they personal or political, or both.

He wrote frequently about cancer from the standpoint of his own experience and of total support and admiration for the NHS and the treatment he received.

Notably, he became irritated when people would tell him he was “brave,” in fighting cancer. He pithily put it in a Guardian article: “This is a front line, it is impossible to flee from.”

Mike as ever used his own experience to make the political point that as a naturalised British person born in the US he received excellent health treatment which in the US would have bankrupted him and his family, or left him with an xunpayable and ongoing debt.

He loathed and hated the free-market economics and immorality and hypocrisy of the US healthcare system.

I first met Mike as a Labour Party member in Haringey when he was a youth worker in Holloway, north London. He was an inspiration to the disparate group of youth who enjoyed zany evenings with Mike at the former Highbury Roundhouse.

Indeed, only a month ago, as I was cycling home on a wet and cold night, a woman stopped me and asked how Mike was, because she had heard he was not well and went on to talk about the positive influence he had made on her life even though she gave him a hard time as a youth some 30 years ago.

He was a very effective member of the Labour Party, particularly in Islington North, and a great friend and support to me on many occasions. He couldn’t stomach new Labour, Blair and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He was politically active all of his life on the left, and never saw things through a sectarian prism.

His writings are what we have and they are amazing and prolific. His great work, jointly with Richard Heffernan, Defeats from the Jaws of Victory was a brilliant analysis of the 1992 election campaign and Labour’s constant retreat ideologically from the Tories.

Mike loved sport, poetry, politics and history, and had the rare ability to be a “sport nut” in his own words and at the same time be objective about the commercial interests and dishonesty of sport.

His love for cricket and India and Pakistan, partly because of their love for the game, enabled him to explore the colonial heritage of cricket in the great tradition of CLR James.

Mike’s Anyone But England, with its lovely subheading Cricket and the National Malaise, dealt in detail with not only the history of the game but also the class-ridden nature of the cricket establishment and the often dubious financing of so-called professional cricketers, in the way the game was supposedly an amateur sport.

Mike wrote an amazing book about Ali, titled Redemption Song, which he described as Ali in the spirit of the 1960s. In it he managed to weave together both Muhammad Ali’s boxing career, the politics of the time, his victories, later his imprisonment and opposition to the Vietnam war and then an amazing comeback to become the all-American icon of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

He wrote many other books and one he was very proud of was Chimes of Freedom — about the politics of Bob Dylan’s art — in which he deftly wove together Dylan’s exploration and growth as a musician in the early 1960s with the civil rights movement in the US and including the killing of James Meredith, Martin Luther King and many others, and the inspiration that Dylan’s music gave to the anti-war movement.

Mike also wrote in his deeply honest book I Am Not For myself about life growing up in the US as a young Jewish boy, his strong opposition to the Vietnam war, which had a big effect on him, and describing his anti-zionist Jewish attitudes — all a fascinating description of how his own politics were formed. Mike was a strong supporter of the rights and justice for all Palestinian people.

When he wrote he would become totally absorbed in the subject. His studies of William Blake for example have showed a depth and breadth of knowledge of English history, poetry and the mysticism Blake encompassed, and the huge political influence he’s had on the lives of many people.

He loved poetry deeply and wrote great poetry himself.

Mike should be respected for his selfless devotions to the cause of socialism and justice, his understanding of the power of culture and sport, and the way in which he illustrated how colonialism and racism has so brutally disfigured the lives of so many people.

In the few hours after his death, messages were already on social media — all over the world — from people who had been inspired by his work and his infectious activism.

Mike’s progressive family were an important influence on him. His partner and the love of his life lawyer Liz Davies, former chair of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, gave amazing support and inspiration to him, and our deepest sympathies must go to Liz.

Socialists need to always remember that an understanding of culture and history is as essential as any understanding of economics as vehicles for social change.

TTIP debated in Parliament

Today Parliament will be debating the arcanely sounding Transatlantic and Investment Trade Partnership.

This has been claimed by David Cameron and the EU as being variously the creator of millions of jobs, a vehicle for economic growth, and the political and economic future direction on both sides of the Atlantic.

Nothing could be further from the truth and many of us beg to differ, myself included.

At its core, TTIP gives big business and megacorporations the freedom to operate throughout the EU and the United States.

The aim is to ride roughshod over national laws and parliaments, and to undermine such social and worker protection as there is in Europe.

Essentially, in search of the fabled “level playing field” for business investment, they want to remove all barriers to trade on both sides of the Atlantic. At risk is environmental protection, workers’ rights, social security systems, publicly run health services, and of course wage levels.

The slow burning fuse of opposition to TTIP is at last burning a bit brighter. Over 50,000 have now objected to the process, and the British government is running scared of the accusation that TTIP will ruin the National Health Service.

While it is right to demand that the NHS and all public health provision be removed from the agenda of TTIP, it is equally important to challenge the whole basis of TTIP.

This is happening in campaigns on the protection of cultural industries and public services. Today Parliament is debating a back-bench voteable resolution on condemning TTIP, and one hopes that the strong voice of the TUC and others in opposition to TTIP will have a strong influence on Labour policies ahead of the general election.

War on Want have done so much to oppose TTIP that they should be congratulated on their achievements. Despite the retreats that have so far leaked out from the highly secretive negotiations the trade deal should be abandoned.

12 Jan

In Parliament: Security (Nigeria, Paris … )

Jeremy Corbyn: The House owes a debt of thanks to the hon. Member for Brent Central (Sarah Teather) for ensuring that this question was asked today. Millions turned out across Europe yesterday, particularly in France, because of the atrocious killings in Paris; millions more need to turn out all over the world over the deaths of innocent people in Nigeria. Does the Minister not think that it is important for all Governments—and all Parliaments, for that matter—to send the message that a human life lost because of such atrocities is equally awful in France, Nigeria or anywhere else, and that every human life is a human life that should not be taken?
Mr Swire: Hear, hear to that! We estimate that in 2014, at least 4,000 people were killed in Boko Haram attacks. The insurgency is growing and it is a growing humanitarian issue. The UN estimates that more than 1.5 million people have been displaced and at least 3 million affected by the insurgency.The hon. Gentleman will have noted the recent words of the Catholic Archbishop of Jos in Nigeria, who claimed that the west is not doing enough to support Nigeria in tackling Boko Haram and drew an unfavourable comparison with the international community’s response to the Paris terrorist attacks. I think that the United Kingdom is showing the way through leadership, financial assistance and training. Perhaps other countries should look at themselves and see what more they can do to join in with the attack on terrorists.
12 Jan

In parliament: Nuclear

Oral Defence Questions 12/01/2015.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab):  If he will publish research held by the Government on the global atmospheric consequences of nuclear war.
The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr Mark Francois):  Classified studies conducted by the Ministry of Defence focus on the effects of UK nuclear weapons and the potential impact, including on critical national infrastructure, of a nuclear attack on the United Kingdom.
Jeremy Corbyn: Under the 30-year rule, Cabinet papers for 1984 have now been published. They show that the Government at that time refused to undertake any study of the atmospheric effects of a nuclear weapon explosion or nuclear testing. As I understand it, no other study has been undertaken since then. At the conference on the humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons in Vienna, there were some disturbing—no, frightening—reports of what would happen to the world’s climate if any nuclear explosion took place anywhere. Does the Minister not think it is incumbent on the Government to tell the British people exactly what the consequences of a nuclear explosion are, not just for them but for the whole planet?
Mr Francois: I think the hon. Gentleman is referring to some declassified Home Office documents, which as Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence I confess I have not read. I believe that nuclear deterrence contributes materially to our national security. If the hon. Gentleman wants to read a really good study on nuclear deterrence, I recommend “On Nuclear Deterrence: The Correspondence of Sir Michael Quinlan”, published by the Royal United Services Institute in 2011. It is a ripping good read about how to keep a country safe and free.
Jeremy Corbyn:   Next month, the Government will be hosting a meeting of the five declared nuclear weapons states ahead of the non-proliferation treaty review in May. Will the Minister tell the House what he intends to achieve from that meeting, whether there will be an agreed position put and whether the P5 will adhere to the basic principles of the non-proliferation treaty and take steps towards nuclear disarmament?

Mr Francois:  As the hon. Gentleman knows, we take the nuclear non-proliferation treaty extremely seriously. We uphold that treaty and it is vital that we persuade other nations around the world that may be in breach of that treaty to abide by its conventions as well. The hon. Gentleman and I take a different view on these matters. I spent many years at university debating against the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and I still seem to be doing it now.
7 Jan

Morning Star: Cynicism Trumps Fears for Human Rights

JEREMY CORBYN on Britain’s shameful attitude towards Bahrain’s opposition clampdown

On Monday I tabled a motion in Parliament saying: “That this house is appalled at recent human rights abuses in Bahrain, most notably the multiple charges that have recently been brought against the Bahraini opposition Al Wefaq leader Sheikh Ali Salman…”  

 

The levels of non-comment by Britain and other UN Security Council members over this arrest is extraordinary, and comes on the back of decades of oppression of legitimate opposition in Bahrain, routine abuse of those in prison, and, tragically, many deaths, as Bahraini forces have sought to control opposition demonstrations.  

 

The relationship between Britain and Bahrain seems to be overwhelmingly driven by arms sales, appeasement of Saudi Arabia and the desire to maintain a British military presence in the kingdom.

 

The government crackdown in Bahrain began in earnest in February 2011 and the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry detailed systematic torture, extrajudicial killing and acts of violence by security forces.   

 

A Bahrain Human Rights Watch briefing document outlined the severity of the situation as follows:
“Since the beginning of the Bahrain crackdown, over 130 individuals have been killed.”
“Over 50 were killed following the issuing of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report, which was accepted by the government and king of Bahrain.”
“Over 3,500 individuals have been arbitrarily detained as political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.”
“Torture and enforced disappearance is on the rise and prominent opposition members continue to serve arbitrary prison sentences.”
“Children are also routinely detained and subjected to abuse and torture. The legacy of the BICI report was left on the sidelines, with no real implementation of its recommendations.”

 

I raised the matter in the House of Commons in the pre-Christmas adjournment debate and also drew attention to the bizarre speech made by Britain’s ambassador to Bahrain in the days after the new British base was announced, in which he claimed Britain had chosen to become involved there because of the concern for human rights and democracy that Bahrain was showing.”  

 

The reality is that this is an act of the deepest hypocrisy by the British government shows more interest in the strategic wishes of the US and Gulf Co-operation Council in developing a base, even though at the same time the Foreign Office itself has expressed concern about human rights abuses, and the Foreign Affairs Select Committee has pressed for much more engagement on human rights matters.  

 

Sadly, the Labour opposition spokespeople on foreign affairs and Defence have supported the base, although expressing concerns about human rights in Bahrain.

 

The reality is that arms sales, military calculations and oil, alongside the massive market for arms in Saudi Arabia, have trumped any fears over human rights abuses. 

 


 

When the house rose for the Christmas recess Richard Burden MP asked the Foreign Secretary: “What progress his department has made on agreeing the language to be used in the draft UN Security Council resolution outlining the principles for a peace settlement between Israel and Palestine.”  

 

Without any obvious signs of irony or tongue in cheek, Foreign Minister Tobias Ellwood replied: “The draft council security resolution was not adopted as it failed to reach the necessary number of favourable votes.”  

 

Nine votes are required for Security Council approval and, in the absence of any veto, full recognition was on the brink of being granted to Palestine by the Security Council, with eight votes in favour. 

 

It fell to Britain to decide the fate of this proposal. 

 

The British abstention ensured it was consigned to the dustbin of history, like so many other attempts to involve the UN in recognising the Palestinian people.  The US had already indicated its preparedness to use the veto, and the Palestinian delegation hit back in the only legal way open to them.  

 

They made an application, as they’re absolutely entitled to do, to sign the Rome Statute and thus become party to the International Criminal Court (ICC).  This met with the most furious condemnation by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured) and the US administration, who described this act as variously provocative and damaging to the peace process.  

 

These remarks are hard to comprehend when the Palestinian parties, all of them, have decided to embark on a diplomatic and legal process of Palestinian recognition as a way of bringing about some kind of long-term Middle East peace.  

 

One would have thought this would have been welcomed by both the US and Israel, which consistently claim to want a peace process. 

 

Since neither have acceded to full membership of the Rome Statute and are not parties to the ICC, it’s very difficult to understand what right they have to condemn another party for seeking to join.  

 

The Israeli government has gone a step further in its hypocrisy and withheld tax revenue to the Palestinian Authority, which makes up about two-thirds of its income.   

 

Palestinian National Initiative general secretary Mustafa Barghouthi said:
“What Israel is doing is theft, piracy and illegal.  Tel Aviv has no right to withhold money paid by the sweat and blood of the Palestinian people.”  

 

He went on to call for sanctions against Israel over its outrageous violations. 

 

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki managed to face in two diametrically opposite directions in one statement, in which the US apparently conveyed to Israel its view that the tax revenues should not be withheld, and then went on to say that the US would cut aid to the Palestinian authority by $440 million because of the International Court membership application. 

 

The British Parliament famously voted last September for the recognition of Palestine in a non-binding decision, with only 12 voting against.  

 

The French Parliament made a similar move and the French delegation to the UN duly showed respect for its own parliament’s position.  

 

Sadly the British government showed such little regard for Parliament that not only was our UN vote not used but David Cameron decided to attack Ed Miliband for acceding to back-bench pressure in his support for Palestinian recognition.  

 

The Prime Minister seems to have forgotten that he’s also a Member of Parliament and, had he wished to, could have attended the debate and voted, but chose instead to stay away hoping that there would be little publicity for this momentous change in British political opinion. 

 

Sadly, the results of Operation Protective Edge (Gaza 2014) are all too obvious to see, with destroyed buildings still unrepaired, children playing in the cold and rubble and Egypt doing Israel’s bidding and closing the crossing point at Rafah and dynamiting tunnels and buildings adjacent to the border with Gaza.  

 

World recognition of Palestine does require strong political and economic action to end the blockade, the siege and the occupation.  

 

That surely is the road that will bring about peace, through justice for the Palestinian people.

 

5 Jan

In parliament: Rail Network Disruption (Urgent Question) January 5th 2015

Jeremy Corbyn: As the Member who represents Finsbury Park, may I ask the Secretary of State to say a big thank you to all the staff who coped with an utterly impossible position on Saturday 27 December, when the station was so overcrowded with passengers? They deserve our recognition and thanks for the hard work that they do.

The Secretary of State will recall that we had a meeting in his office last year about the future of Finsbury Park station, where a piecemeal improvement has been taking place over many years. Does he not agree that there should now be a serious examination of the capacity problem at that station, given the increasing number of rail passengers, the dangerously overcrowded underground platforms, and a management mix between Transport for London and a train operator on the main line? Will he meet me again so that we can have a new discussion about Finsbury Park and the need for it to be improved?
The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Patrick McLoughlin): I join the hon. Gentleman in thanking all the people who were involved in ensuring that the vast majority of the vast number of people who turned up at Finsbury Park were kept as informed as possible, in extremely difficult circumstances. This is certainly one of the issues in which I intend to take a further interest, and I shall be more than happy to meet the hon. Gentleman, possibly at Finsbury Park.


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