Fintan O’Toole wins the Prestigious 2017 Journalism Orwell Prize for his Articles on Brexit

I’ve been a fan of Fintan O’Toole for many years and his Brexit articles are always very well worth reading. His analysis is generally excellent as is the quality of his prose. I was pleased to discover that at least two of  Progressive Pulse team, Richard Murphy and Ivan Horrocks, also hold him in very high regard.  In April, Fintan won the 2017 European Press Commentator of the Year prize for his work on Brexit and its aftermath.

He is also as of a few days ago the holder of the prestigious Orwell  2017 Journalism prize for his work on Brexit. (There are links to his articles on the Orwell Prize Page).

A more recent article in the New York Book Review “Britain: The End of a Fantasy”  is available here.

Here is a podcast interview which may be of interest; it is about a half hour long available here.

Well done Fintan and we wish you continued success.

Likely DUP Demands in supporting the May Government

As someone who grew up on the island of Ireland the DUP are well known to me as indeed are Sinn Féin. I find it saddening that the more centrist parties: the SDLP, Alliance and the UUP captured no seats in GE 2017. All we are left with is two parties  with significant links to paramilitary groups but with very different politics. Apart from the obvious (that SF are Nationalist and the DUP unionist), SF are in politics a socialist modern party but the DUP are ultra conservative with a 17th century mindset considerably to the right of the Tea Party in the US. They are Protestant fundamentalists if not supremacists. It is not however difficult, looking through their various manifestos and policy statements, to get an idea of their likely bargaining position and there is a list which has been compiled here.

I have broken the list down into areas which are less sectarian and may be possibly agreed to by the Tories and others which are unlikely to fly as they may be perceived as too extreme.

These seem possible:

These are less likely but are part of the DUP wish list:

  • An increase in the size and number of British military bases and installations in the North, with training and logistical units, and administrative departments permanently relocated from Britain.
  • The reinforcement of partition, in line with the DUP’s off-the-record briefings, and at odds with its public pronouncements about favouring a “soft” Brexit border around the Six Counties.
  • Restrictions on Sinn Féin, including the party’s access to the House of Commons and Westminster in general, with a loss of public-finances, as available to all other parties with elected MPs.
  • Tighter restrictions on immigration to the United Kingdom and on the rights of non-nationals to access employment, social welfare, education, health, and so on. In other words, a “Britons first” policy.
  • The end of the television licence fee in the UK with the gradual “reform” of the BBC, including partial-privatisation of the public service broadcaster, in line with the DUP’s opposition to the “liberal media”.
  • A diminution of the cross-party, intergovernmental Good Friday or Belfast Agreement of 1998. That is, the peace deal which effectively ended three decades of insurgency and counterinsurgency conflict in the UK-ruled Six Counties. In particular, a rolling back of “Dublin interference” in Belfast affairs, a key concession to the northern nationalist community and the government of Ireland under the Irish-British peace process.
  • The “Britishcisation” of the United Kingdom’s legacy colony through concessions to the Orange Order and others, with the removal of restrictions on disputed parades and marches, a greater use of UK flags and symbols in official buildings, signs and documentation, and the introduction of distinctly British public holidays.
  • Conversely, and as would be expected from a fanatically hibernophobic party, a drastic suppression of any outward signs of Irishness in public spaces, including the continued ban on the use of the Irish language in the UK-controlled regional courts, no equality for Irish-speakers through legislation and no recognition or funding of all-Ireland structures.
  • A block on any possible reunification referendum in the north-east of the country for the next five years, regardless of local political, electoral or demographic circumstances. (A unity plebiscite in the event of a fifty/fifty nationalist and unionist split in the contested territory is another foundation block of the Good Friday Agreement).
  • A “hands-off” approach by London towards the region’s supposedly unique cultural and social traditions. In other words, the British state facilitating the anachronistic fusion of Unionist politics and Protestant fundamentalism, an ideology which manifests itself in a militant opposition to Roman Catholicism, homosexuality, marriage equality, feminism, abortion and anything perceived as liberal or progressive within the confines of the Six Counties.
  • A de facto general amnesty for members of Britain’s Armed Forces and allied services, military, paramilitary and intelligence, for war crimes or acts of terrorism committed in Ireland during the historical conflict or “Irish-British Troubles” from 1966 to 2005.
  • The renewal of post-conflict arrests, detentions, prosecutions and imprisonments of former Irish republican insurgents despite the carefully negotiated commitments given to the Republican Movement two decades ago by Britain in order to end the “Long War”.
  • The establishment of a so-called “IRA Victims’ Fund” to channel tax-payers’ money to persons injured or otherwise effected by the military campaign of the Irish Republican Army. A majority of these compensation payments would inevitably go to Unionist communities in the north of Ireland, particularly to former members of the British forces, including allied pro-UK terror gangs, or their families.
  • The allocation of funds for predominantly unionist neighbourhoods and constituencies, funnelled through state and DUP-associated organisations, including terrorist-influenced bodies loosely affiliated to the party. Some of this would be used to fund loyalist community groups, bands, the Orange Order and so-called “Ulster-Scots” advocacy groupings.
  • Greater impediments to visits by the President of Ireland.

I hope this gives some insight into their mentality. They were the only party in Northern Ireland to be pro Brexit and were, and possibly still are the recipients of very some very dark money. They are worried, their instinct is to  “circle wagons” in a crisis and they seem unable to reach out to the Nationalist community. They are not stupid but fully understand the demographics are against them as in Figure 1; as Catholics are far more likely to be Nationalist than Unionist and easily outnumber Protestants in the younger age groups. My fear is that whereas these policies may be very attractive to their core support base they will alienate the Nationalist community. The may see this hung parliament as a golden opportunity to shore up their increasingly fragile position. It seems however the Torys think they have no place to go so very few of the DUP demands may be implemented.


Where to now with Brexit?

I was in Dublin at the weekend; nothing unusual about that, it is my hometown and I go back regularly. On this occasion it was the 40th reunion of my UCD class of ’77. I know that I move in circles where everyone is both successful and well educated so their opinions may not represent a true cross-section of the Irish population however a few things were evident:

Continue reading “Where to now with Brexit?”

BoM June 2017

Our June Book of the month is Debunking Economics by Steve Keen. Debunking Economics exposes what many non-economists may have suspected and a minority of economists have long known: that economic theory is not only unpalatable, but also plain wrong. When the original Debunking was published back in 2001, the market economy seemed invincible, and conventional ‘neoclassical’ economic theory basked in the limelight. Steve Keen argued that economists deserved none of the credit for the economy’s performance, and that ‘the false confidence it has engendered in the stability of the market economy has encouraged policy-makers to dismantle some of the institutions which initially evolved to try to keep its instability within limits’. That instability exploded with the devastating financial crisis of 2007, and now haunts the global economy with the prospect of another Depression. In this radically updated and greatly expanded new edition, Keen builds on his scathing critique of conventional economic theory whilst explaining what mainstream economists cannot: why the crisis occurred, why it is proving to be intractable, and what needs to be done to end it. Essential for anyone who has ever doubted the advice or reasoning of economists, Debunking Economics provides a signpost to a better future.

Economics 101

One of the core aims of  Progressive Pulse is to increase economic literacy and in particular macroeconomic literacy. To help in this you may have noticed that some posts are being labelled “Economics 101”. you simply need to click on the “Economics 101” tag at the top left of this post (under my mugshot and date) to get the full list of posts. Eventually the hope is to put an Economics 101 tag on the main menu.

Many years ago I was very interested in economics and an avid reader of for example books by John Kenneth Galbraith and thought Keynesian economics made very good sense.

Around the time I was finishing my PhD however neoliberalism somehow took over. I was in the US at the time at the Harvard Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, desperately hoping Ronald Regan would not get elected. He seemed to me at least a complete fraud and would put corporations ahead of people. I gave “Trickle down Economics” for example almost zero chance of working. Sadly Regan got elected as president  and indeed Thatcher became PM in the UK. Between them they brought about a neoliberal revolution. Countries are like supertankers and I can’t help but worry that the rudder has been trimmed incorrectly over much of the last 40 years in both the US and UK.   Indeed I pretty much lost interest in neoliberal economics  and economics in general as it felt somehow repellent.

Thatcher and others however have been very adept at pushing for example the “household model” which is completely inappropriate for a macro economy.  Indeed the level of economic literacy (and in particular macroeconomic literacy) seems to have decreased rather than increased over the past 40 years. Someone of a suspicious mind would be forgiven for thinking this “dumbing down” was deliberate.

If the economy were doing well possibly the specific economic theory in use would not matter so much. Since 2008 however the UK economy has been growing very slowly (growth rate is the neoliberal benchmark)  well below its 3%  trend. It would be interesting to calculate that if you removed the effect of immigration (a very strong positive) and the top 1%, whether there has been any growth at all.

Thomas  Clark of the blogspot Another Angry Voice identifies ten questions to put to the general public:

  1. What is a fiat currency?
  2. How is money created?
  3. What is the difference between a debt and a deficit?
  4. What is the difference between fiscal and monetary policy?
  5. What are capital controls?
  6. What is a transfer pricing strategy?
  7. What does fiscal multiplication mean?
  8. What is a derivative?
  9. What is a “naked” trade?
  10. What is Quantitative Easing?

He is of the opinion that less than 5% of the UK population could answer four of these with any depth of knowledge, let alone all ten of them. Sadly I can’t say he is wrong.

I’m not sure I fully understand Quantitative Easing for example. There seems to be a bit too much “smoke and mirrors”.

How many of these do you understand fully?  Are the other questions which are equally or more important?

We intend to answer these and other questions over the next few months. Indeed some of these have been already addressed but possibly it is worth addressing these questions directly?



The State of the Nation and the Labour Manifesto

I put together an article for Progressive pulse on the state of the nation around the time of the Brexit referendum (available here). Nothing much has changed (apart from things getting worse) and I would recommend Raoul Martinez’s article at openDemocracy, and it is worth reading in full: If you’re not yet radical, you haven’t been paying attention. (The text from Martinez’s article is in italics).
Continue reading “The State of the Nation and the Labour Manifesto”

The End of the Home Owner Dream – New Homes for Rent Only.

When I arrived in the UK in 1981 housing was abundant and cheap. I was able to purchase a house well within a year and there were many available starting at about 75% of my annual salary (£6,500 as a Post Doc in the University of Sheffield) but I purchased one on an 80% mortgage at about 1.5 times annual salary (£10,000). Admittedly this was in South Yorkshire where property prices were below the national average. Thirty five years later the situation is markedly different. It would not be over dramatic to say there is a housing crisis.

Continue reading “The End of the Home Owner Dream – New Homes for Rent Only.”