Where is our Cù Chulainn now? – Co. Louth Megalith Tour Part 1

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This is the stone that legendary Ulster warrior Cù Chulainn tied himself to as he died. Tricked by Queen Medb into breaking one of his geiss (a religious taboo), he was weakened before his final battle. Cù Chulainn was mortally wounded and tied himself to this stone by his own entrails so that he would die on his feet. His enemies were so afraid of him that they kept their distance even as he was dying. They would only appraoch when a raven landed on his shoulder, signifying his death.

As I stood in the field by this stone three ravens flew directly overhead. I could hear others cawing all around.

Cù Chulainn was our Hercules. He went through all sorts of trials. He defended Ulster when its men were struck down by a curse of labour pains, given to them after the King of Ulster made his wife race a horse while she was pregnant. It makes me think about the men of Ulster now, emasculated in this time just as they were during the Cattle Raid of Cooley, when Cù Chulainn stepped up.

Who stands for Ulster now? The British government does what it wants here, while Sinn Fein and the DUP line their own pockets, complicit in their inaction.

History moves in cycles. Where is our Cù Chulainn now?

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A couple approached the stone as I left. They were holding hands. I climbed the fence out of the field and cast my eyes back for one last look at the stone. The couple were leaning up against the stone kissing. Love and life and life and death are all intrinsically linked.

Is Stormont something that should be destroyed to bring new life? Does Ulster need a hero to bring about that death? Would new life elsewhere cause Stormont’s death naturally?

There is certainly instability ahead. No one knows what will happen when Brexit kicks in. If direct rule happens the old power structures, in the form of paramilitaries, are already waiting in the wings to fill any void.

No paramilitary or political party is relevant to me.

I drove into Dundalk after the stones and was struck by the amount of tricolours on lampposts. Gerry Adams has an office here. Despite having just visited the death place of the greatest Celtic hero in Irish mythology, I felt very much like an outsider. I may not like the British government, but that does not make me a green, white and gold flag waver, nor have ever taken communion. I don’t sign up to the Catholic church’s or Sinn Fein’s hijack on Irish identity. I don’t know the rules of hurling, but I know how to swing a bat. The Celts of these islands had more in common with each other than a Roman church or a middle Eastern deity.

It makes me wonder at what point did the Scots stop helping the Irish against the British and start helping the British against the Irish? After all, the Scots are mostly the Irish who invaded Alba and stayed there. The Ulster Scots are those who came back. We were split by Christian churches playing a game of divide and conquer; a game going on to this day with different beneficiaries.

 

 

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Last minute decision to vote in the EU Referendum

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“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” is a saying that haunts me. Doing nothing sounds great.  It sounds safe and comfortable.

With only one day left before registration for voting in the EU referendum closed, I was at the electoral office getting signed up. I saw the result as a foregone conclusion and the process being divisive for the whole country. The Tory party is gutting itself with all the infighting, parties of the left have been supportive of the EU with many disagreeing internally. Divide and conquer showing itself on every level. Many of those who support a remain vote are labeling those in disagreement as fascists or racists, while they themselves are being labelled quite often as establishment-loving liberals. Good people, friends of mine, have been making insulting comments. People are turning on those they would have considered political allies before this campaign, people with whom they share the same values.

This is why I didn’t want to get involved, but that saying haunts me.

The referendum poses a massive decision for people, and they are taking it very seriously. A close friend of mine told me, “Sometimes I feel like voting to leave, but I’ll probably stick with staying when I get in the polling booth.” The concerns people have are real and valid. For those on who want to stay there are big problems with uncertainty of how things would be if we were to leave the European Union. I respect why people would want to vote that way. There are many in the UK who live a stable life, who have people who depend on them, and who have a higher stake in keeping things the way they are. For me, a twenty eight year old with a big student debt and the prospect of getting a meaningful job quite difficult, the EU has done very little.

For example with employers rights. The Conservative party may have a bad reputation when it comes it workers, but how much protection has the EU really brought to workers? Mike Ashley was hauled in front of the House of Commons’ Business Committee for a bollocking by MPs about how workers at his company (Sports Direct) have been treated, because he can’t be hauled in front of the courts. His company was acting within the law.  If the EU protected our employment rights so well, why do so many of us have Sports Direct-esque experiences, where we work in degrading conditions for small amounts of pay?

Fracking is still a concern for residents of all parts of the UK and the recent horse meat scandal exposed problems with globalisation in our food supply.  These examples raise questions on how effective the EU really is environmentally and how much we benefit from globalisation.

Another area of misinformation and division is around immigration. The facts are difficult to discern and it’s hard to know who to trust. Why can’t we trust mainstream media when talking about crimes committed as a result of a lack of integration from refugees or migrants, but we can when refugees or migrants are portrayed as victims? I believe the Truth lies not in excluding one of these statements, but in acknowledging both.

Let me first say that I am opposed to borders. I believe that people should have the freedom to move between countries, to trade, work and visit other countries without the need for permission. What we have, however, is not immigration. It is a mass movement of people. The people of countries like Syria and Iraq have been victims of war and economic sanctions brought on by foreign countries for years. Natives of those countries risk their lives by staying and risk their lives by leaving. The gap between the standard of living in their war torn homelands and a relatively stable Europe is so great that it’s not hard to see why people would risk leaving. Neighbouring countries such as Saudi Arabia and Israel are doing little to help refugees forcing them north geographically.  This creates a funnel system, and with huge numbers moving into new areas without any real mechanisms for integration, there will be problems. Ignoring this as a problem will not stop it.

For some migration is a bad thing, for me it’s not. It allows for new ideas to spread around the world, for new technological advancements to be developed, and it offers people individual freedom. Forced mass migration on the other hand does not end well. Mass migration is often followed by war, famine, disease and eventually state collapse. This knowledge on history’s cycles is easily accessible. The rulers of the world already know it, yet they are doing little to stop it. Based on how little percolates into the mainstream about tensions between refugee groups and European natives, I would question the motives of the rulers of Europe entirely.

The European Union is a massive source of centralised power. Like all sources of centralised power, it may have started with the best intentions, but has become corrupt. We have seen how this has happened to other sources of centralised power: MPs fiddling their expenses, child abuse in the Catholic church, and banks rigging financial markets all with little real consequence or accountability. The EU, like these other organisations, is acting in the interests of its leaders and not those who it claims to serve. The defining proof of this, despite what good it claims to do, is austerity.

Austerity is a political weapon of the ruling class. It is a method of disempowering the working classes and allowing the wealthy and powerful to consolidate that wealth and power. Austerity is incredibly complex by design. It is not as simple as needing to balance the books. There are many other economic, social and psychological dimensions to it. All that we really need to see is that during times of austerity, the working classes find it difficult to be upwardly socially mobile, while the rich have little impact on their standard of living and have increased their wealth since the most recent financial crisis.

Austerity is a core policy of the EU. In 2012 Francois Hollande was elected President of France under a socialist banner. In his victory speech he said, “Europe is watching us, austerity can no longer be the only option.” He was quickly brought into line. The Greeks put up slightly more of a fight when they elected far-left Syriza but were spectacularly crushed when the financial forces of Europe colluded, as former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis described after leaving office.

When we give our power away to bigger organisations it is harder to get it back. We have given away so much already. This is our chance to take some it back. This is our chance to start reclaiming our energy supplies, our food supplies and our water supplies. We’ll bring the power back to Westminster and then we’ll take it from them too.

This is a chance for us to live fulfilling lives, to be able to interact with people instead of bureaucracies or companies, and to have more meaningful relationships from that. I respect the decision of those who have voted to stay in. I respect they have reached that decision as an autonomously thinking human being. They are not my enemies. My enemies are those who perpetuate division for their own benefit through organisations like the EU. Doing nothing sounds safe and comfortable, but that same saying still haunts me.

We need a new currency, but will it be Bitcoin?

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By now you’ve probably heard about Bitcoin. Some weird, new online money system that people either use to get rich quick or to buy drugs on the internet. Those things are both true, but here in the UK we use the Great British Pound for those exact reasons and many others.

Bitcoin is currency, just like the pound.

If we have a currency like the pound already, then why do we need a new one? To get to the bottom of that, we have to take a look at the currencies we’re using.

Fiat currencies

Do you ever ask yourself what gives our money its value? There was a time when the sterling you have in your pocket could be traded with the bank for a set amount of gold. Your money was your gold, that was the guarantee that the banks had with their customers.

Now, however, most currencies are nothing more than numbers on a screen. Your gold is gone. The banks have sold it.

The UK’s currency is issued by the Bank of England, a central authority. The American Dollar is issued by the Federal Reserve (a private company). Both the pound and the dollar, and indeed most Western currencies, keep their value because their governments support American imperialism. The threat of American violence is what guarantees Western currencies.

These currencies, with no real guarantees, are called fiat currencies, and I don’t mean to worry you, but civilisations with fiat currencies don’t usually end too well.

Take the Romans for example, the Roman denarius was almost pure silver at its inception. By the time the Roman empire was ready to collapse, there was only around 0.02% silver in each coin.

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Successive Roman Emperors had stolen the silver from the coins to pay off their own debts, and by the currency’s end, no one would accept it because it had been devalued so much.

The same thing is happening with Western currencies through quantitative easing (the process of pumping incomprehensible amounts of money into the economy through the stock markets), whether that comes from the British Bank of England, the American Federal Reserve or the European Central Bank.

So while the public are barraged with cuts, the Bank of England has been able to print £375 billion to give to already wealthy corporations. All this does is increase the wealth gap between rich and poor, and devalue the currency considerably.

How can fiat currencies be fixed?

Currencies need a commodity or some sort of trusted third party to guarantee their values and process transactions. But we don’t have any commodity linked to our currencies, and whether or not banks are trusted third parties is questionable, given the behaviour of most banks in recent times.

A commodity based currency will generally be the replacement for a fiat currency, whether that be coffee beans, seashells or perhaps something that wouldn’t be recognised before the digital boom of the last few decades. Enter cryptocurrency.

Cryptocurrencies are digital based currencies linked to a digital commodity. There are quite a few cryptocurrencies available, but the most popular and easily traded is Bitcoin.

What is Bitcoin?

Redditor americanpegasus wrote a 100 word explanation of what Bitcoin is, which won a WeMedia award. There probably isn’t a better way to describe it:

The engine changed transportation, and the Internet transformed communication. Now Bitcoin is redefining the very concept of money.

A network that cannot be shut down or owned holds a limited number of ‘coins’. Users verify the history of every coin constantly and create new ones by solving math problems. Coins don’t belong to people, but instead to anonymous addresses. By broadcasting their intentions to move coins to a new address, people ‘spend’ their bitcoins.

A combination of a precious commodity (like gold), a spendable currency (like dollars), and a speculative investment (like stocks), Bitcoins are the future of money.”

The engine of Bitcoin is the blockchain technology that it’s built on. It’s a decentralised, peer-to-peer, open ledger. This removes the need for a trusted third party, or a bank, because every transaction can be verified by the blockchain.

Mining for Bitcoin

There are only a limited number of bitcoins too, and only a set number can be mined and are released at regular intervals, so new coins can’t be created from nothing. This again is verified and regulated by the blockchain.

To help the currency retain its commodity based value there are two things to remember about mining. Firstly, Bitcoins are only released every ten minutes, and after every four years the number of coins available is halved. By 2140 no new Bitcoins will be available to be mined, so, like many commodities, there is a limited amount of it.

Secondly, the mathematical algorithms a computer has to solve gets more and more difficult, meaning the computers needed have to be up to the task. When Bitcoin first came around in 2009, miners could have used a standard PC or laptop. Miners now are engaged in an arms race to see who can get the best machinery to mine new coins.

This presents new problems. The currency was supposed to be decentralised, however the technology needed is so expensive to buy and run, in terms of energy and cooling, that the technology is lying with a select few people.

Many of the biggest Bitcoin miners are in the southern states of the USA, but it’s likely the technology will have to move to cooler climates, simply because it’s easier to keep the hardware cooler the closer to the poles you get. This is the scale of the technology needed to mine Bitcoin, and environmental concerns have been raised around the vast sums of energy the currency needs.

Bitcoin miners are needed to verify transactions too. This may seem to strike at the heart of the decentralisation of currency, which Bitcoin prides itself on, but it simply means they use their computer’s processing power to verify transactions. Again, this is done on the blockchain, the open ledger that holds a record of all bitcoin transactions.

Can Bitcoin bring some financial balance to the world?

Bitcoin was originally set up as a replacement as an alternative to the current economic system. The first block in the blockchain, the “genesis block” reads: “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks”.

But Bitcoin has to overcome a lot of roadblocks before it could rival another currency.

Bitcoin is being used predominantly for money transfers and as an investment. Bitcoins can be sent anywhere across the world without the same fees charged by international money transfer services.

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The currency is incredibly volatile for investors. Bitcoin shot up in value late in 2013, peaking in on 4th December 2013 at $1147.25. At the time it was more valuable than gold.

Since then it has gradually declined in value, hitting its lowest value since it’s spectacular rise on 4th January 2015 at $263.63, a long way off what it had been just over a year ago.

Despite its volatility, it has attracted the eye of those working for the country’s financial sector, yes, that’s the government.

British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne leaves 11 Downing Street

In August, Chancellor George Osborne spoke fairly ambiguously about Bitcoin, he even got his obligatory press photo with a Bitcoin ATM.

At this time the Treasury launched a public consultation on Bitcoin. Bitcoin featured in a debate on the creation of money in the House of Commons, and even the Bank of England issued a document on Bitcoin, where they seem to love the blockchain technology, but the currency less so.

It’s understandable why the Bank of England would be wary of Bitcoin, if the bank can’t control it, then it loses its power as currency issuer and trusted middle man.

Bitcoin problems

The involvement of governments into finance is usually worrying enough, but that’s not its only problem.

If you can’t mine Bitcoin, which most people now can’t, then you have to buy Bitcoin. Bitcoin can be bought at a Bitcoin ATM. There are 8 of these ATMs in the UK and Ireland.

Some shops also buy goods in Bitcoin. CEX will buy your old electrical goods for Bitcoin. If you have no DVDs going spare, or if the ATM is out of Bitcoins, then the other option is a Bitcoin exchange.

Bitcoin exchanges can be daunting if you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s a place where Bitcoins can be bought and sold via these exchanges for fiat currency. Transfers are generally made either by PayPal or by direct bank transfer, and then onto the user’s Bitcoin wallet.

In February 2014 Bitcoin’s biggest exchange, Mt. Gox based in Tokyo, started to wobble, suspending all trading and closing its website. By April 2014 it was had gone into liquidation.

Approximately 850,000 Bitcoins were lost totalling $480 million. Japanese Police investigating the incident estimate that all but around 7,000 coins were fraudulently stolen.

This isn’t the only case of a Bitcoin exchange facing problem, on 4th January 2015, around 19,000 BTC valuing an estimated $5 million were stolen from European exchange Bitstamp.

That sort of fraudulent activity is a fairly small problem compared to what will be Bitcoin’s biggest problem if it were to ever contend with the dollar or the pound, and that is the size of each block in the blockchain.

Each block is capped at 1MB, this is to prevent miners centralising too much of the power, however as the amount of transactions increases, the block size will have to increase to keep up. Without increasing the cap, the Bitcoin network is only capable of completing 7 transactions per second, which isn’t at all practical, especially when compared with the millions of fiat transactions that happen every day.

It’s all about the blockchain

But all this brings us to the technology, where the real excitement lies. In an interview for Wired, tech entrepreneur Brock Pierce said: “The internet we use today is the internet of information, the blockchain is the internet of value.”

The blockchain is the open ledger upon which Bitcoin has been built, but this technology does not have to remain exclusive to Bitcoin. It is the open ledger that anyone can look at. It’s fast, decentralised, and difficult to corrupt.

The technology is so new, it is impossible to tell how it could be used, but some suggestions already range from giving people the ability to vote online, to buying a house without having to pay expensive agency fees.

And this isn’t just some conceptualised nonsense. Start-up accelerator firm Latitude are advertising for places at their blockchain summit in the Cayman Islands. The firm is advertising for blockchain entrepreneurs to spend three months there developing ideas to then pitch to investors. The Cayman Islands has been chosen because of its regulatory and tax environment, which Latitude believes favours start ups. It’s also really sunny and has beautiful beaches. It’s alright for some.

What’s the future for Bitcoin?

It’s impossible to say. Bitcoin fanatics will tell you it’s the only logical way out of our current economic problems. The reality is that Bitcoin is nowhere close to achieving that. The technology isn’t mature enough yet for that.

There are also the current power structures that are in place that Bitcoin needs to contend with. As we know already, those with power are reluctant to give it up or share it.

Bitcoin will either explode spectacularly onto the financial scene, or it will continue to fizzle out until it finally dies when something similar replaces it.

One thing is guaranteed though, the blockchain is here to stay, for better or for worse.

https://wakelet.com/wake/embed/1dfOTD5HOk/bitcoin-and-cryptocurrency

https://wakelet.com/wake/embed/1lC8CacDIc/the-new-economic-crisis

UKIP mainstream media bias continues as Farage is invited to leaders’ debates

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UKIP invited to take part in high profile media debates after winning 0.15% of seats in House of Commons.

Media outlets are once again eating up the hype of UKIP. Their success has been proportional to the amount of media coverage they have been receiving.  That’s not to say broadcasters are the sole reason for UKIP’s success, they have just added to it.

The foundations for xenophobia were set long ago. During the 2010 elections, one main theme of the leaders’ debates was immigration. By the 2014 European Elections, UKIP had jumped on that immigration bandwagon, marrying what they describe as out of control immigration with the European Union.

The amount of airtime a party receives is dependent on it being able to demonstrate electoral success. UKIP is a strange anomaly, in that, as a party, they can pull it out of the bag in Europe, but can’t seem to replicate that at Westminster.

In a recent BBC news article, they point to the success of UKIP in gaining a Westminster seat in their justification for UKIP’s invitation. Have they forgotten again about the Greens at Brighton Pavilion, or the Respect Party at Bradford West, or perhaps the six other non-mainstream parties that have demonstrated electoral success all over the UK, or the millions who have abandoned voting altogether or who vote for smaller parties?

Broadcasters say inviting a UKIP representative is due to changes in the political landscape. What about when the Greens beat the Lib Dems in the most recent European Election? That would seem to be a change in the political landscape to me, based on what broadcasters are proposing for UKIP.

Big Four Electoral Cycles

You can see from the above graph that European elections are completely different to Westminster. Multi-seat constituencies make it more likely for smaller parties to win seats. The winner of the election doesn’t go off to govern the country either, so voters can be safe in the knowledge that they’re sending someone off to rant at the EU bureaucracy, and not sending someone to rule over us all. It’s similar to a by-election where voters often give a protest vote.

Voting turnout is generally abysmal at European elections, in the UK it’s usually somewhere around the mid thirties in terms of percentage. Come Westminster, you can usually add around 30 percentage points to this, with around two thirds usually turning out to vote there.

Broadcasters should be consistent with their policies. Look again at that graph. Who will be at the leaders’ debates to represent those millions of people on the grey line?

BBC has become the broken lens through which we view the world

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Summer 2008: A naive, young man moves loaves from one basket to another in an industrial bakery.  The job is monotonous and mind-numbing, the only escape is the sound from the headphones.  The young man is me, the sound is the BBC reporting on the biggest financial crisis in our history.  I quickly became hooked.

I listened to Stephen Nolan in the morning and Jeremy Vine in the afternoon, soon I’d added Paxman and Dimbleby to my evening viewing. I loved the content and analysis involved in the shows and I eventually took up journalism with my dream of working for the BBC.

Lately, however, I have lost trust in the BBC.  I’ve lost confidence in its ability to report accurately, truthfully and in a way that allows for any sort of ideas outside of their pre-set boundaries.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll keep watching BBC’s political shows and news shows, although it won’t be for much of the content or analysis, but for the same reason I watch Game of Thrones: there’s plenty of drama and a good chance someone will lose their head.

It’s clear to me though that the BBC has lost its way, and I’m not the only person who isn’t happy.

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BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson

Following the European and local elections the BBC reveived almost 1200 complaints for giving Nigel Farage’s UKIP disproportionate airtime, which prompted political editor Nick Robinson come to the corporation’s defense saying, “The BBC either gets flak for giving him too much flak, and on the other hand we get flak for giving him far too much airtime as well.”

The reality is, that since since 2009 up to the European Election, Nigel Farage had appeared on BBC Question Time 16 times, and that’s just Mr Farage.  UKIP has had other representatives on the show too. The Green Party in comparison appeared on show the just 11 times.

Phil Burton-Cartledge looked at four years of BBC Question Time figures up to the end of 2012, and it showed a clear bias to the political right. Although given that the three main parties (Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems) have all pursued similar economic policies during their times in government, it is hard to argue that any of these parties are really on the left economically. To me this shows that the bias is skewed even further to the right than this analysis suggests.

The BBC’s coverage of the Green Party during the EU and local elections came under heavy criticism also, with a petition entitled “BBC News: Stop this media blackout of the Green Party” attracting almost 50,000 signatures.

There is clearly a huge issue of representation within the BBC, and for me the final straw came when it failed to cover the story 50,000 people marching on parliament against austerity, which included the high profile political speaker and celebrity Russell Brand.

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Russell Brand speaking at 50,000 strong anti-austerity protest on 21st June 2014.

Ric Bailey, Chief Advisor of BBC Editorial Policy spoke on the BBC’s Daily Politics on how they allocate time for Party Election Broadcasts (PEBs) and on BBC political broadcasts. For PEBs Mr Bailey says parties get more coverage based on whether or not they can demonstrate electoral support. He said that for coverage on news and current affairs there is no formula for how much time parties get, it’s done by “good judgement.”

Mr Bailey’s comments, and indeed the practices of the BBC, suggests that all this political coverage is done in a Westminster bubble. Fringe groups are left out, and when we look at the level of disengagement in Westminster politics, we can see why the BBC is losing credibility by giving a disporportionate amount of time to these parties.

There is a huge amount of people out there rejecting mainstream parties altogether. There is no disputing that the vast majority of political focus on the BBC, and most broadcast media in general, is based on the “Big Four” parties of the Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems and UKIP. Representation for other movements is barely there at all. When you include people who aren’t registered to vote into the vote share figures, it has a huge effect on the proportion of people to have rejected the “Big Four” by either voting someone else or not voting at all.

I looked at figures for the 2010 General Election and estimates from the Electoral Commission to try to paint a bigger picture of political disengagement. The 2010 General Election was the best turned out election of recent times, having a slightly higher turnout than the General Election before that.

Of the total amount of people who actually voted, only 8.8% of people didn’t vote for the “Big Four”, but that rises to a massive 50% when you include people who didn’t vote and people who aren’t registered to vote.

Click me to see interactive charts.

Click me to see interactive charts.

In its broadcasting the BBC does not represent this 50%. Ok, fair enough, it might be hard to try to work out who all these disparate groups are and why they might be so disenfranchised with the current political status quo, but the BBC isn’t even trying, and in maintaining its current practices it props up the current system. The BBC has become the centre-right lens through which many people in the UK view the world.

The recent broadcasting failures demonstrate how out of touch the BBC is.  If it’s to regain my trust and confidence, and that of many others, it will have to connect with those who reject mainstream politics. Part of this is accepting that the current political system offers little choice.  A huge chunk of the public want something else, and as a public sector broadcaster the BBC has a duty to reflect this more realistically.

Alternative Employment event a missed opportunity for Manchester Greens

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Green leader Natalie Bennett wants to revolutionise employment by introducing a Universal Basic Income and having a shorter working week. Ms Bennett was speaking at an alternative employment event last night at The Cornerhouse in Manchester following elections which saw her party growing their share of EU and council seats in the UK.

Natalie Bennett’s input into the conversation was well informed and to the point, but a distinct lack of fanfare and cameras shows the publicity problems the Green Party is facing.  It’s possibly a less cynical way of doing politics, but it does not win elections.

The discussion, organised by anti-capitalist group Plan C, centred around three questions:

1. What does the future of work look like currently?

2. What would you like the future of work to look like?

3. How can we organise and what interventions can we make in order to create the future of work that we want to see?

The leader of the Green Party in England and Wales told the audience that a universal basic income is something her party aims towards, but admits that there are political limitations her party has to work within, highlighting the need first of all to “first make minimum wage a living wage.”

Academic Nick Srnicek, who was also on the panel, agreed with these political aspirations but said they would have to be worked on over years.

Mr Srnicek thinks that a Universal Basic Income, an income based on need not ability, could be a solution to problems such as wage stagnation, job precariety and underemployment. He also sees it as a “leverage for class power” as it increases the value of work. This is a point Ms Bennett was able to develop:

“The nature of the payscale will change. For example, a sewer cleaner would be paid more than a banker, because it’s a job that less people would be willing to do.”

Panelists agreed that a shorter working week is also a necessity, with Natalie Bennett highlighting issues around childcare that could be easily resolved with a shorter working week.

When challenged on how a UBI and shorter working week could be financed Nick Srnicek suggested that the money could be found somehow. Natalie Bennett said it’s hard for economists to work out what would happen because it’s hard to predict how people will behave, however she did point out that UBI had had atransformative effect in some developing countries where it doesn’t cost a lot to finance.

Natalie Bennett outlined her party’s positions on employment very well, and the political realities of the modern world, but the Greens failed to generate publicity around the event and to really drive their message home. It might be fair to say she was being respectful to the debate in not using it to score points politically, but in reality her party need to take those opportunities to do that.

There seemed to be a fairly broad consensus in the room, both with the audience and the panel.  The event was well attended, well organised and the audience had plenty of opportunities to input ideas.  “A Future that Doesn’t Work” was organised by Plan C MCR.  The podcast will be available on their website soon.

 

Originally published on 04/06/2014

Will lower turnout affect EU elections?

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On the 22nd of May 2015 voters in the North West of England will take to the polls to elect eight people to fight on their behalf at the European Parliament. But just how many will actually come out to vote?

The big question everyone seems to be asking is similar to that of years gone by: should we in the UK stay in Europe, or should we leave? The main difference this time round has been the addition of two television debates headed up by pro-EU Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and charismatic anti-EU UKIP leader Nigel Farage.

The United Kingdom has historically had a low turnout at in European elections. The last election in 2009 saw a UK turnout of 34.5%, however the North West of England, and Manchester and Salford Council areas in particular have been particularly low, even compared to the rest of the UK.

Online Graphing

English Democrat candidate Steve Morris thinks this is due to a rejection of the established parties. He describes his party as a civic nationalist party, who wants England to be removed from the political EU, but appreciates how we benefit from other European countries as neighbours and trading partners.

The English Democrats want to get out of Europe altogether, but the Conservatives on the other hand want to reform Europe altogether. Syed Kamall MEP, Leader of Conservative MEPs in Europe, said the Conservative Party would guarantee a referendum on Europe if they won the next General Election. Last week he was in Manchester, trying to drum up support for his party’s candidates here.

Syed Kamall may be right in saying the big battle is between the Conservatives and Labour. In the North West in 2009, the Conservatives and Labour polled first and second sharing 25.6% and 20.4% of the total votes cast respectively. This meant the Tories won 3 seats, Labour won 2. UKIP, the Lib Dems and the BNP won 1 seat each.

However Syed Kamall may also be wrong. His party is unpopular in the UK at the moment, after almost three years of cuts and the recent expenses scandal involving Tory MP Maria Miller, and the polls reflect this.

Electio2014.eu estimates that the Conservatives will slip nationally from the party with the most European candidates, currently 26, to the party in third place with 18 seats. They estimate UKIP will rise from their base of 13 seats to the UK’s second biggest European party with 20 seats.

These polls were carried out before the second Nigel Farage vs Nick Clegg debate and some think that Farage’s dominance in that debate will give UKIP an even bigger jump with some commentators predicting that UKIP will become the biggest UK party in Europe.

The television debates will only have added to Nick Clegg’s anxieties. The Deputy Prime Minister’s party has suffered from being the junior partner in an unpopular coalition government. They are likely to come out of the European elections considerably scarred with polls showing they may only return two seats.

The Electoral Commission are running an awareness campaign to encourage people to register to vote by the 6th of May, but have said that’s as far as they go, it’s up to the parties to motivate people to actually cast their vote.

Salford City Council doesn’t have time to deal with students, but a spokesperson urged everyone to come out and have their say in the election.

Originally posted on 15/04/14.