BHS – the Parliamentary Report

If you are in business, this BHS Parliamentary Report makes for a very depressing read. It combines a narrative of weak governance and the exercise of singular personal influence that is breathtaking. The Committee make some sweeping assertions, however, about the nature of ‘business’ in the UK, which to this reader, do not perhaps reflect the true state of a wider ‘moral’ commercial landscape extant in the presently configured UK. It gives little regard, I would argue, for the good work and innovative governance practice delivered by the social business market, the ethical investment marketplace and the community endeavour or social enterprise sectors. In the UK good practice abounds, but it was not prowling the corridors of BHS at the appropriate time nor, allegedly, had the fearless support of a company management team that were vigorous and rigorous in pursuit of  customer care, employee development and growth and tilted all energy towards a cohort of pensioners, upon whose expertise and life work in the company, these missed opportunities were nurtured through time. ‘We chose to investigate BHS because it encapsulated many of our ongoing concerns about the regulatory and cultural framework in which business operates, including the ethics of business behaviour, the governance of private companies, the balance between risk and reward, mergers and acquisitions practices, the governance and regulation of workplace pension schemes, and the sustainability of defined benefit pensions…’ Source: First Report of the Work and Pensions Committee and Fourth Report of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee…

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Après moi, le déluge

Louis XV of France, in predicting the French Revolution after his demise, cannot have had David Cameron in mind. However, the last week of June 2o16 saw a number of unedifying political manifestations of the turmoil and collapse driven by the ‘Brexiteers’. The titular phrase of this article is derived, according to which source you read, from après nous, le déluge arguably by Madame de Pompadour. The use of the plural is even more apposite as the recent scene in the Commons unfolded, where Cameron berates Jeremy Corbyn for not ‘leaving’ his post as leader, whilst the Tory Party under the tottering leadership of Cameron careers into crisis, effectively leaderless and arguably adrift in an ocean of conflicting ideologies. The Conservative Party is now a bastion of Free marketeers, decrying the ready movement of labour. It has a one nation rhetoric, betrayed by dishonesty and spin, arguably intent on driving ‘foreigners’ from our shores. This latter philosophy creates popular incantations summoning ‘the other’, which will have terrrible consequences for some communities. Its leadership promoting this dissent and schism in civil society, seemingly regardless of the consequences to an economy now in freefall. This week we hear that the principles of austerity, cuts and deprivation, designed to reach a fiscal target which deems our nation to be a sort of grocery shop where costs must be cut at any price – now this too is swept away. The writer Kazuo Ishiguro, writing in the Financial Times this week is angry… Angry…

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Vale Angliae

I was driving to my office in Cambridge on Friday morning (24th June 2016), from Suffolk and across the land of a large estate owner. The early morning sun was shining through the trees and looking, I saw the deer and pheasants abroad in the verges, seeking their early breakfast. Having an historical sensibility I was reminded of that warm, sunny day I had read about, in the July of 1914 when war was declared. The one which became known as The Great War. As then, after a climactic announcement, nothing seemed to have changed. There were still scones for tea and sport to be undertaken the next day. Yet then,within four years of complete military, social, economic and cultural destruction, millions were to lie dead from Flanders Fields to the harsh, dusty landscapes of the Middle East and Africa. There was something of that ‘phoney war’ sensibility about the post ‘Vote Leave’ result. Nothing seemed to have changed, yet as the weekend progressed the markets and our currency were in freefall, we had lost a Prime Minister and within the Labout Party the Shadow Cabinet began to fall on their swords, in order to ferment a revolution in the palace. The majority of the polity had voted, we were told, to endorse a strange ‘Faragist’ notion of good people declaring themselves against the ruling elite, big banks and an imagined anti-democratic Europe. There had not been many celebratory banners for European achievements, or detailed analysis of the support the…

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Speaking for Labour In

    In a recent speech Jeremy Corbyn succinctly laid out why those of us on the left should vote to remain in Europe. Connected interests, whether for organised labour, educational organisations, social justice or ethical, market driven enterprise…all are more powerfully able to argue their case collectively, rather than in isolation. In fact, the very basic tenet of a political party with a distinct and clear emancipatory view of the world. The Labour Party in the UK. Challenges for people across the globe in the 21st Century are many and will continue to be immense. Jeremy outlined the work thus… How to deal with climate change. How to address the overweening power of global corporations and ensure they pay fair taxes. How to tackle cyber-crime and terrorism. How to ensure we trade fairly and protect jobs and pay in an era of globalisation. How to address the causes of the huge refugee movements across the world, and how we adapt to a world where people everywhere move more frequently to live, work and retire. (Source: Speech by Jeremy Corbyn, http://www.labour.org.uk/blog/entry/jeremy-corbyn-europe-speech  Accessed 15.06.2016) The EU and its workings can, by default, often seem complicated and distant from the lives of ordinary people. If only to protect the interests of workers and to be able to have access to the largest market in the world for British enterprise, we should vote to stay in. In a recent article, A Long Requiem for Europe, we looked at how the the threat of war…

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Struggle is the reality!

The mainstream press and right wing political opinion would have us believe that Britain is a nation of millionaires, with a quest to hermetically seal our borders, to the detriment of our trading efficacy, and that individual choice from a menu of abundance is the default position for all ‘hard-working’ families and households in the UK. How wrong can they be? The reality for many working families is that choice does not exist and resources do not, under any prevailing economic conditions, match aggregate demand as a household unit. (‘…my income does not even cover my rent…’ a plaintive comment in this film from the Labour Party…). Policies of austerity and the tolerance of vast inequality in social and economic matters create voices of despair in our communities. From Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal to the Keynesian interventions in the rebuilding of Europe after devastatingly destructive war and resource depletion, the solution to a fairer, more compassionate and prosperous society is spending on public infrastructure, with that infrastructure in public ownership, and the creation of economic motive and delivery that sees the redistribution of wealth, not downwards for the few, but upwards for the many…vote Labour and change the model!  

A message from Jeremy Corbyn

The latest TV broadcast message from the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, has just been made available on-line. Jeremy speaks, as always, with conviction, calmness and certitude. In the short film below he highlights both recent victories for communities and individuals, but goes on to present a clear position on community support, education, health and social care. It is this calm clarity, we would argue, that as leader of the Party, is one of the most important characteristics that Jeremy brings to the policy development debate. It is not the clamour of ideological disruption, but a process of consultative, active listening. You can join the Labour Party here.