Collective Conversations leaning to the left, thinking independently, arguing for humanity... Sat, 21 Sep 2019 08:23:32 +0100 en-GB hourly 1 Collective Conversations 32 32 Losing our Memory? Wed, 13 Feb 2019 15:21:04 +0000 Read more content here...


The future is unclear...image
The future is unclear…

A commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law was Europe’s answer to fascism. The loss of this European memory presents real dangers amid a resurgent populism.

‘s argument is essentially about the vacuum created by the emergence of new populist right, with their cries fortaking back control’, ensuring that ‘our white race … continues to exist’ and fighting ‘an invasion of foreigners’. 

Memories of total war, and the deprivations wrought by a far right in full military mode have faded. This is the danger he argues.

As a baby- boomer I have no personal knowledge of this damaging blanket of conflict too, but my existence has been fully shaped and tempered by the ’45’ generation, to whom European solidarity and inter-nation co-operation and human rights had been so important.

The leaders of this generation deepened integration through the completion of the common market, the opening of intra-European borders with the Schengen agreement, the creation of the euro and the empowerment of the European Parliament.

Anecdotally, there are plenty of millennials in the media who seem to intuitively feel this shift, but do not, as yet, declare their allegiance to Europe to be against the rise of Fascism.

However, it is not the unspoken feelings of the liberal left that may triumph. It is the stentorian call of the a resurgent, militarised right that may shatter the old certainties.


We commend this article to our readers.


At the Cliff Edge – Part Three Sun, 30 Dec 2018 18:15:07 +0000 Read more content here...

Over Edge Part Three – the New Model (Economic) Army

Addendum – 16th January 2019

Following the devastating defeat for the ‘May Brexit Plan’, the rejection of the futile scheme now means we have gone over the cliff.

As the political consequences tumble from the Westminster table to the floor of the House, we will be left with a representative process itself unable to function, I suspect. It is this calamity that is undemocratic, not the cries from the right of the Tory Party that the previous questioning and seeking clarity has been claimed, in their eyes.

From the wasted, vast public expenditure spent in pursuit of narrow, partisan political ideological aims, to the new understanding by the majority of the population around the consequences and the complexity of misunderstood and ineffective negotiation on our behalf – now is the time to abandon the sly scheming of the Bullingdon Club as national policy and to reaffirm our collaborative, humanitarian commitment to the European project.

Or, at the very least to hold a new referendum to re-assert the will of the people, now a referendum of informed choice, to decide our fate collectively.

Without either, I would argue, there is no hope of a new socio-economic plan, as detailed below, in our increasingly isolated, beleaguered island.

‘…we argue that the UK must now embrace change on a sufficient scale to achieve ‘escape velocity’ from an economy that delivers neither prosperity nor justice, to one that achieves both. We face a decade of disruption ahead, in which doing nothing will drag us further backwards. Change of this magnitude is possible…’

The cliff edge - image
The perilous void approaches in March 2019…

Earlier in 2018 we saw the publication of the Final Report of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Commission on Economic Justice (…extract above). Entitled ‘Prosperity and Justice – The Plan for a New Economy‘ the report outlined several key policy areas to broaden ownership of industry, to make distribution of its wealth more equitable and to seek a new determination of social justice, linked to and driven by our economy.

There has been much recent popular debate about whether politicians are as adroit as they used to be. If they were not, then the world would be in utter and complete chaos. It is not of course, is it?However, if the car crash that is Brexit in 2019 does happen, then in the declared political spirit expressed by Brexiteers of all the mainstream parties, then we should embrace that change and increase management, accountability, economic democracy and community facility, through enterprise change as detailed in the IPPR report.

Prospetiy & Justice IPPR Report - cover image and web link
View, print or download your copy here…

Make it a cornerstone of a new political morality, to exercise the demons  of poverty, exclusion and hatred of the other. For future historians the Commission’s report adoption could be seen as the transformative Beveridge Report of its day.

Morality is a word chosen with care. We are being told that we cannot have a second referendum, or that the choices we have are ‘where we are’…and so on. To dispute or press for other solutions is anti-democratic. The people have spoken.

The people have spoken against and from within the context of political opportunism, party partiality in Parliament and rigid ideological dogma to satisfy the far right of  a rightist socio-political elite.

We must have a second referendum, precisely because of the flawed, deeply partisan and opportunist nature of the first. Those who decry the end of democracy in this debate are looking down the wrong end of the telescope.

Messages on the side of a bus, based on flawed data, the fear of another illusory ‘straight banana’ crisis, all coupled with the lack of intellectual weight of those making the original proposition mean that, now the obscuring veil of mis-reality, mis-understanding and mis-direction has been lifted – then now is the time for moral courage to be freed and to say we got it wrong and must revisit the question.

That is in the interests of the people. I find it hard to believe that the people of my generation who voted leave were casting their paper for soldiers on the streets, medicine hoarded at borders or the crisis that will surely overtake our business/research matrix, hospitals, schools and food distribution networks. It is seventy years of European peace that is at peril.

Indeed, in the previous two segments of this three part article (Brexit and Poverty) I have already been clear, and deeply saddened and angered, at the political processes that have sought such elite opportunist change, which for me and others, have been entirely in the wrong direction for our country and communities.

What politicians need, arguably, is a clear road map. One that is both linear, yet segmented into distinct policy areas that will illuminate process and outcome at a synergetic arrival point.

This aggregated outcome must be non-revolutionary, yet ground trembling enough for society at large to recognise that both process and outcome convene in a clear societal good, in which they are included.

The economic structures must retain adherence to some traditional rules of capital, so as not to deflate or redirect existing energies, yet that will alter the production/finance matrix enough to re-channel wealth and ownership without creating systemic fear of the change itself.

No mean feat, you may say? It is my hope that in reading the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice deliberations, you will recognise the suggested cartography.

We have to ‘hard-wire’ justice into the economy, not treat it as an afterthought…” says the report. Calamitous change is upon us and here is a framework for management.

This is an elegant echo of the thinking of Professor Philip Alston, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, published in his ‘Statement on a Visit to the United Kingdom‘ in late November 2018.

The professor, looking at the political wrangle over Brexit, for example, saw politicians considering the well being of individuals and communities as a afterthought, or somehow, a minor consideration which hampered the effect of political ideology at play. In the Professor’s report the word ‘austerity’ could easily have been substituted for ‘spite’, without any loss of efficacy in the argument.

The IPPR report also beggars the veracity of all the political swagger…

‘…behind the figures for growth the picture looks even more worrying. Across a whole range of economic indicators, the UK economy exhibits serious underlying weaknesses. On investment, research and development, trade and productivity, we perform worse than most of our European neighbours – and have done so not merely over the last ten years, but for much of the last 40…’

Reporting an insightful analysis if the UK economy, as it exists, the Commission go on to make a number of recommendations for policy change. Changes, which if executed, would transform prosperity, production and profits for all. They are…

  • Reshaping the Economy through Industrial Strategy
  • Securing Good Pay, Good Jobs and Good Lives
  • Turning Business towards Long-Term Success
  • Promoting Open Markets in the New Economy
  • Raising Public Investment in a Reformed
  • Macroeconomic Framework
  • Strengthening the Financial System
  • Spreading Wealth and Ownership across the Economy
  • Designing Simpler and Fairer Taxes
  • Ensuring Environmental Sustainability
  • Creating a New Economic Constitution

Although there are, clearly, policy activist organisations working to achieve the types of change called for in the report, it is the meta-narrative, the over-arching vision of the IPPR report that is its key distinction.

Prosperity and justice: A plan for the new economy – The final report of the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice

We commend the report to our readership, marking it as a defining sign-post for a new socio-economic national landscape. Get your copy and persist with the detail. Bring it up at branch meetings, write to the newspapers and tell the children that yes, there is another way.

If I never make it with my projects to Estonia, I shall go over the cliff with my family into a dark future…waving my IPPR Report copy aloft as we fall into the abyss.




To the Cliff Edge – Part Two Thu, 06 Dec 2018 18:03:04 +0000 Read more content here...

This article is being written in the run up to Christmas 2018, as the Brexit debacle continues to hold sway of both the media and national and local government.

Our traditional time of festive merry making, generosity of spirit and forgiveness, secular or otherwise is becoming active again, but this year set against the publication of a report about our nation that should, if widely distributed, stop us in our tracks.

On the 16th November 2018, Professor Philip Alston, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, published his ‘Statement on a Visit to the United Kingdom‘.

The Alston Report on UK Poverty - image and download link
View, print or download this report here…

This is a tautly argued, well evidenced report from an independent mind. It is not without much good tidings on the work of libraries, charities and some sections of government activity, for example. However, the body of the narrative presents a society, I would argue, being slowly squeezed into a pressure cooker of even deeper poverty, social discrimination and economic disenfranchisement.

“For almost one in every two children to be poor in twenty-first century Britain is not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster, all rolled into one”.

Fourteen million people in our country live in poverty, of those, some four million live fifty per cent below that disastrous level and possibly one and half million people live in abject destitution according to the Alston argument.

‘British compassion for those who are suffering has been replaced by a punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous approach apparently designed to instill discipline where it is least useful, to impose a rigid order on the lives of those least capable of coping with today’s world…’

Alston makes the point in his narrative that the governmental discourse about change and cost savings, arguably driven by financial crises that were engendered by an unchanging, flawed, centrist capitalist system, has been given the handy and disguising label ‘austerity’.

However, the press for austerity savings, arguably to fend off some miasmic notion of national bankruptcy, are more than off set by the costs of elaborate new systems and government departments designed to press individual responsibility, efficiency saving on benefits and the drive for employment as the catch all solution to all individual ailments, failings and disability.

The real cost of austerity lies in the individual unhappiness and pain resulting from its application.

The lurch towards the all-consuming Brexit has, likewise, not only generated vast cost, much of it unpublished, but has deflected government away from more imaginative, compassionate and individually uplifting social solutions. If they were ever on the table at all one suspects?

Alston opines in his summary that ‘…poverty is a political choice’.

It is deeply ironic, that in a recent Parliamentary comment on the Alston Report, the work was decried as being merely ‘political’. Given the cogency of the Special Rapporteur’s argument and cited evidence, and the harsh, unstated political aim of this government to re-engineer our society, this commentary makes for double the laughter.

We seem, on the basis of the Alston opinion, to be moving as a nation back to the dark Victorian days of the ‘residuum‘, where the poor and less well off are seen as victims of their own fecklessness and should be punished for such failings.

Download, print or view  your own copy here.

A Happy Christmas?

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As we hurtle towards the edge of the cliff… Wed, 17 Oct 2018 12:25:12 +0000 Read more content here...

The future awaits...train crash image
The future awaits…

This statement is all about party political management of the factions in the Tory party – the national interest is a very poor second. What an utter shambles‘… Oct 15

In a sense, in the midst of a gargantuan flow of promises, policy revision and idealogical selfishness, then it doesn’t really matter what the statement mentioned above is all about. Umunna’s tweet is a metaphor for a wider socio-political discontent.

History is the important context, or rather, a lack of it and a missing sensibility to previous disastrous political outcomes.

Umunna’s opinion captures a general sweep of unease with both major parties – over Brexit, the political operational vacuum at the heart of Westminster because of it, and all the ancillary debates, gesture politics and posturing that diminishes compassionate, effective government.

As I emerge from my period of grief over the Europe debacle, I look back in a deeply personal reflection across the current landscape.

Post the ‘Referendum of Mis-information’ and having taken the family to Europe, France and Holland, to explore new places to live and new bases for our small  businesses, they have taken the opportunity to decline relocation as a solution to my European malaise.

I remain deeply pessimistic about their future, and that of their children, as a result of a party political ‘manoeuvre’ of the deepest national and international significance, a word described in the dictionary as ‘ move skilfully and carefully‘. In this case, history here may not be kind.

In the here and now, I find it interesting that both church leaders and humanists are clearly voicing disquiet regarding the activities and expectations of an ideological Right. The history matters here.

‘The European Union is one of the greatest human achievements. A continent which had been at war for centuries is now at peace. It’s not just about military alliances, it’s about countries opening their hearts and their borders to their neighbours. Preserve it!‘   

In the future? Well, I expect that the clarion arguments of a European peace, guaranteed by secure political alliances, will mean nothing. We risk, yet again, our own ordinary people becoming, quite literally, victims to political expediency.

As I write, I am dusting off my copy of Sun Tzu, The Art of War, to better understand the interplay between politics and military aggression, which has left my life untouched so far, but which devastated the generations of my father and his father too.

It is interesting, I would argue, that as we approach yet another commemorative date to remember both profound loss and absolute bravery, that no current politician, of any party, seems able to entwine these historical political consequences into their current thinking, whilst still bearing appropriate reverence for the fallen. The Menin Gate should haunt us all.

There is a lack of intellectual grasp, about society, politics, economics and history – a monumental failure of perception – that lies at the heart of mainstream elite political debate and sound-biteism over Brexit.

The consequences for me, in the now, are a sense of betrayal, a denial of internationalism as an inherently good thing. Not in a capitalist shade, but in the efficacy of governmental co-operation and social utility that has seen so much historical investment in the UK, from Europe, and a melding of socio-cultural ideas that have enriched our society for the better..

Splendid isolation, as a political driver, results in a hardening of negativity towards the other. It makes the consequences of state violence both remote and unheard in the home state

These consequences, social and economic, of the Brexit divide are irrelevant to an ideological elite, I would argue, secured by private funds, private education, overseas investment and a property portfolio that would stagger George Soros.

In the future? I shall remain European first and English second, as I have been my whole adult life.

At the office, as a board, we are debating a paper to facilitate a change to Estonia as a base for our operations. We have always, in the day job, worked as a collective across international borders. Any move which denies us having to break this core mission, for us, is the right move.

For me with what time I have left, even if I remain only a virtual European in Estonia, I will, as one small voice in a social landscape rendered asunder,  have taken a stand, of good conscience, against monumentally misguided, politically opportunist ideology.

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Equaliteas – share, debate, celebrate – not too late Mon, 18 Jun 2018 08:27:36 +0000 Equaliteas web button image and web link
Discover more on the web at UK Parliament…

‘What does it mean to you to have the same democratic rights as everyone else? Join together with people from all over the country to celebrate 90 years since the Representation of the People Act 1928, which gave all men and women over 21 the equal right to vote. Invite your community to share, debate, and celebrate what equality means to you’.


Register on this UK Parliament web site to get your free promotional material and to support parliamentary democracy for all – and the Representation of the People Act in 1928.

Equaliteas teapot image and web link
Get your event going for Equaliteas – see some ideas and resources here…

Events: 18th June to 2nd July, 2018.

Why not have a tea party and talk about it, or discover an event already registered near you. See more here.

Check out these events in the East of England, for example…

Tea Together at Kings Lynn Library‘Celebrate the Great Women of Lynn and Norfolk this afternoon. We are launching our new Voicebox Cafes celebrating women’s right to vote & encouraging you to get involved in local democratic life. Discover some local suffragette stories & try some tasty cake! All welcome’.

Tea Together Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library

More than MUM!  South Street, Ipswich

Kesgrave Tuesday Project – Kesgrave

Still time to register and engage your community of interest in debate, delicious cakes and pots of hot tea!

Democracy, community and the relevance of the democratic process across all communities.





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Antiuniversity Now 2018 Sun, 10 Jun 2018 09:53:59 +0000 Read more content here...

Remembering Paris ’68

Antiuniversity Now is a collaborative experiment to reimagine the 1968 Antiuniversity of London, in an ongoing programme of free and inclusive self-organised radical learning events.

Antiuniversity Now challenges academic and class hierarchy through an open invitation to teach and learn any subject, in any form, anywhere’.


Now in its fourth year you can, between June 9th and June 15th 2018, join in a wide range of radical, activist educational opportunities, for free.

We are glad to see the autodidact is not dead, and to discover proof that collective and supportive peer education is still abroad. (We know it’s not..Ed).

We offer some of our favourite sessions for your delight below, but do discover more on the AN web pages here…

DIY Radio: How to make radio shows and broadcast them for nothing

Courtesy of 199 Radio, this event…’will focus on learning how to use some of these tools to create our own radio programmes (Audacity, Mixx, Radio Studio and others), and how to broadcast them on the internet using Facebook. At the same time we’ll be talking about our experience of independent broadcasting, the future of radio and other subjects dear to our hearts’.

More detail and registration here.

Peer to Peer Web Workshop:  A practical workshop for anyone interested in the p2p distributed web! The agorama server co-operative offer a one day practical workshop that provide the tools and instructions for creating your own self-hosted website and contributing to a decentralized p2p internet. The instructors will briefly explain internet protocol and current infrastructure before assisting each participant in setting up their own web site using their computer as a server.

More detail and registration here.

How to form a Tourist Board:   I​an​ B​one​ ​of Class War ​shows how setting up a tourist board can be fun and radical + the launch of the TOP 50 SOUTH NORWOOD ATTRACTIONS ​’S​ee how the Sensible ​G​arden has become an autonomous​ ​zone with no rules, ​hear ​how Croydon ​Council sent in riot cops to stop a lake naming ceremony, ​learn ​how advertising giant ​O​utdoor​ P​lus was ​made to clean up t​h​eir own mes​s​, find out how ​South ​N​orw​o​od took on the lake district tourism​ board and forced them to acknowledge ​it ​h​ad more lakes​ and ​meet​ Pickles​,​ the dog ​who FOUND THE WORLD CUP​!’

More detail and registration here.

n.paradoxa’s MOOC (mass open online course) on feminism and contemporary art:

Experience a MOOC –  Gain a greater understanding of what you can find online about this topic There are many art and art history degrees where nothing is being taught about feminism in relation to contemporary art and this free online course is designed to help those curious to know more. During the full week of the Anti-university in June, live discussion forums with Katy Deepwell, editor of the course, will be held as part of the course.

More detail and registration here.

There is still time to jump into the programme. Some courses and workshops can be challenging, but all are horizon expanding, we would argue.

What about an Antiuniversity Now sequence of collaborative learning sessions in the East of England, for next year?

You can message me here… editor (at)

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The Moral Matrix and 2017 Sun, 08 Jan 2017 12:50:17 +0000 Read more content here...

Jonathan Haidt in this 2008 talk explores the constraints and tensions in the moral psychology of left and right. He uses the context of the American political system and discusses primary moral principles, which for us in the UK, can be seen as a proxy equating to Labour and Conservative ideologies.

Given the tensions within the Labour Party at present, given the divisions created by the referendum on Europe last year, there is a merit in revisiting these earlier Haidt arguments, touching as he does on freedom, rights, power and dissent.

You can see the full TED talk from Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist and Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business, below…


In the talk, leavened with an easy humour, it is easy to see identifiable Labour Party sterotypes, as well as those of the Tory persuasion. The left enjoy open-ness, change and commitment to the future well-being of others. Those of the right, in this model, cleave more strongly to notions of order, and acceptance of the suffering of some, to achieve their world vision.

Haidt’s arguments about the five principal moral values that determine our political allegiance do bear subtler fruit after reflection. However, there is a more complex truth illustrated at play within and relevant to the UK Left, I would argue.

There are certainly those of the left who are adherents of open-ness, change and collaborative development. The countervailing position, arguably, is reflected in the matter of the Labour Party rule book. My electronic copy runs to 110 pages. It is hard to imagine a historically, long established political party, with a distinct and focused collective community mass-identity, that would need long debates about rule or process. Given the weight of history and experience that sits atop the shoulders of branch and national executive members.

However, it is also possible to see a ‘rightest’ version of the left, utilising the Haidtean moral psychology arguments. The press for deployment of rule in pursuit of rigid order, is also conflicted, in this model, by those who then seek to change the rule book. Not for pursuit of long term social and moral objectives, but in a short term attempt to secure self interested order as a group or societal norm.

Would it not be better to use moral psychology and the moral imperatives of the Left, socialism in my intellectual landscape, to develop thematic drivers of action which, in Haidt’s canon, would see an end to the ‘moral matrix of disputation’?

Yes, would be my answer. When even members of Momentum are being drawn into debate and argument about the rule book, it would seem, all would benefit from having a contextual list of moral activity, with a view to changing the long term political landscape of the social Left.


Below are examples of how the ‘Moral Values Directorate‘ of a new Labour Party might look…there are many others, to be sure.

a. Social Business/Social Enterprise/Community Business

In England the depth and history of charitable endeavour runs deep. Why does the Party, most connected with the workers, not more forcefully and adroitly engage with business principles that can employ people, deliver companies with highly moral employment and marketing values, to change the topography of communities and regions.

Is it not possible that the Party could have national teams who foster branch engagement with social business solutions to local community problems? Not to the abandonment of working for votes and candidates, but as an exension, an additional part of the political armoury which would, in the long term, affect those moral value triggers of the electorate who do not currently vote for our party.

For Party members to actively engage and cultivate social business and community enterprise as aprt of their constituency armoury utilises member energy and experience, but over time, serves to illustrate the practical vaues of the Party to a much broader audience, in a newly relevant way.

b. Arts and culture

Performance, art and creative conceptualisation of problems can all be powerful adjuncts to a political allegiance or understanding. Younger members of the Party, wanting to become writers, creative workers or intellectuals should have, in a Moral Values Directorate, a process available, a ladder of opportunity which enables them to emerge as thinkers and doers, to the notice of their peers and local communities, which again can change the political landscape of branches and/or regions over time.

The Arts is just one segmental approach – creating new vertical communities of potential subscribers, followers and voters – in a way which drectly speaks to their interests, and salts political direction and thoughtful opinion into the lived experience of local politics.

The Arts can be a powerful enabler of personal development, cultural shift and redirection of loyalty, I would argue.

c. Values Rapid Response teams:

We now know, for example, that our Local Authorities are using legislation to eavesdrop and record the activities of the residents/electorate that they are responsible for. Where is the concerted effort to abolish such activity. If our freedoms are imperilled by those elected members who are there to represent us, why can we not have national teams who can support immediate, local action to such deployments when they become clear.

Here is just an example of how a vertical approach, this time by contentious theme, that could close the gap between distant elected members of the party and those who live in the communities they represent.

As an interested outsider, I am not aware of a groundswell of opinion or action, to protest in this way. Partly, this is about holding elected members to account in a very direct and solutions driven way, but also seizes the high ground for the Left, where to take action in defense of community is, importantly, to be seen to take action.

It is a thematic approach to political drive which can disrupt the’…maintain the status quo, despite the inequality inherent in such positions’, whilst making the moral values which the Left should, or could, hold most dear, radiantly clear.

You could also devise the same vertical model to confront the privatisation of education or the railway network, for example. Not in the usual overtly, partisan way, but devised campaigns that lead with the moral value, the community well-being arguments absolutely at the fore.

It can be done. I have heard railway men and women talk, at conferences, of the human value and social benefit of railways, for example. A discursive, collaborative display unknown to most politicians, voting for foreign ownership and private fiscal value without consequential thought, I would argue.

If ever history was on the side of the man or woman on the footplate, it is this conversation that would resonate with voters…if they, the voting population, could hear it in concord with a ‘moral value proposition’ that was relevant to their own experience and needs.


Making moral psychology become part of the everyday political discourse of England, allowing the Left to jump out of the moral matrix we now find ourselves. Now that would be worth voting for in 2017.

We might even get a ‘Labour TEDTalk’ out of it?

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Film, art, reality and Ken Loach Thu, 03 Nov 2016 09:59:54 +0000 Read more content here...


 From Jarrow into the future, the never-ending march!


Spending time and resources on re-location, post referendum, has been an interesting, if difficult,  process over the summer. France has been a comfortable destination, both in terms of culture and prospective places to live.

Now we have now widened our search, however, to scope projects in the cities of Rotterdam and Dublin. Both seem to offer a more supportive context for a refreshed approach to developing a social business project list, and a settled philosophical face to permanent membership of Europe. Progress reports of our search for a compassionate community in the EU, as they emerge…

This has not been a brake, however, on engagement with the artistic and political culture of England. I saw two films riven with political angst and declarative for reform over this week. Below is a commentary on that viewing.

Adam Curtis has delivered a provocative new film, HyperNormalisation, which seeks to show how the emergence of inward looking, technology driven, private banks and corporations have essentially subsumed the power of government, in the widest possible sense of a world with only a pretence of accountablity.

Image: Adam Curtis

The film tracks a development arc from the 1970’s onwards which shows the rise of ‘big data’ and it’s secret storage and manipulation, and how this, coupled to a capricious and opportunistic political class, had traded allegiances and money whilst dissolving their ability to solve societal problems.

You can see this challenging and sometimes disturbing film on the pages of the BBC iPlayer here.

Curtis’s title for the film comes from the concepts derived by American academic Alexei Yurchak whilst writing about the collapse of the old Soviet Union. He argued that everyone recognised the system was failing, but as no one could imagine any possible alternative, politicians and communities gave over to maintaining a pretence of a functioning society. This delusion eventually became a self-fulfilling prophecy with fakery accepted by all as real.

Ken Loach, defined by Conservative MP Kwarsi Kwarteng, as a ‘revolutionary socialist’ has produced in his film I, Daniel Blake a contemporary catalogue of outcomes that derive from the structural, corporatist and political changes over time, defined by the film HyperNormalisation.

In a recent interview the Tory critic refuses to see the ‘reality’ of I, Daniel Blake, as it is only an artistic representation. Resorting to the perjorative epithet ‘revolutionary’ to describe the film maker, in the face of an austerity campaign derived from his own ideology, the like of which has created the need for the very representation we see in Loach’s film.

What I, Daniel Blake is not, despite the Kwarteng protestations, is a dogmatic, rigid and Manichaeian Marxist rant.

As always wth a Loach film the depth of research, and contributions from state actors and individuals of conscience to it, is clearly visible in the film credits.

See the recent interview with Ken Loach and the Tory MP below. (The MP even amazingly admits that he has not seen the Loach film, and continues to deny the struggle of ordinary people in carrying the burden of austerity!).

Daniel Blake is a working class resident of the North East who, having suffered a heart attack, finds himself and those around him trapped in a Kafkaesque nightmare of conflicting processes, anti-humanitarian state machinery and ultimately despair. Loach defines this context for a life, for many contemporary lives, as ‘conscious cruelty’.

The language used by the systematised officers and state actors, in this rational, economic world that Daniel confronts, is of ‘sanction’, remote decision makers, contracts and ‘customers’. The services and support he is attempting to access have been ‘privatised’ and contracted out. so that all people entering the system become coins in a fairground slot machine – waiting to be pushed over the edge.

It is in this process that the filmic work of Curtis and Loach come together. Remote corporations drawing down vast sums of public money, attempt through the use of technology and rigid process ladders, to solve a problem the politicians cannot master.

Daniel is a victim of a change, started over forty years ago, aided and abetted by technology, which has left the political class floundering to find solutions to the most complex of societal problems.

It is the lack of humanity, of the personal consideration, which drives the frustration and anger that Daniel feels. Applying a ‘sanction’ to individuals who are ill, distraught and now deprived of all income for thirteen weeks is anti-humanitarian, surely? The Loach film contains a scene in a food-bank which is completely heart rending. That society should allow such support processes to exist, no matter how worthy, whilst prolonging the detrimental state of its individual members, is deplorable?

It is this sense of powerlessness, I would argue, in the face of such complexity which has allowed the demagogues and sound bite political contenders, who are contemptuous of the truth, to move communities to the isolationist right, as those communities seek solutions to the deprivations and inequalities they are experiencing.

Both filmic artworks present a depressing and depressed view of human relations and experience. The Loach film, however, is essentially about working-class friendship, compassion and solidarity – not any of which is administered by the state in general, alas.

It is the desparate shortage of humanity in both these cinematic edifices that is the most painful. A world determined by elite processes which lack any sense of it in strategic, operational or political decision making.

Most people of the liberal left are driven by a strong social conscience. What is less clear to them, and which is a weakness of the left in general, is the delivery or conceptualisation of a crystal clear message, methodology or mission, that makes issues and solutions tangible, transparent and treatable.

Watching the work of Curtis and Loach may coagulate us into action – to deliver that humanistic, egalitarian and compassionate society, which both films are crying out for.

The long march continues.

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And so to France… Tue, 16 Aug 2016 09:43:15 +0000 Read more content here...

Exploring France Image
Scanning the European landscape for opportunity…

In Europe recently looking at both projects and for places to live.

When looking for information on business services, buildings and local opportunities, the distinctiveness of the Mairie and its conditioning power in small local communities, was a powerful example of how local democracy, decision making and regard for both history and civic presence can be created in one building, regardless of the size of the community.

History is important in France. Travelling from the city of Arras towards the coast created an opportunity to stop for coffee and a short walk. Just off the main road was a plot of land, about the size of a generous community football field. In it stood over eleven thousand grave markers for French men and women. Individuals who had fallen during The Great War.

Driving on, in a few minutes passing similar places dedicated to nearly forty thousand German souls, others for Indian nationals who died, and for Polish combatants too in another. A jumble of conflicts and immaculately kept memory, dotted across the landscape.

In the village centres and small towns were memorials erected to British Generals, regiments and individual soldiers, all paid for by popular subscription. Concrete evidence that France, lying at the heart of the European idea, must be as mystified as I am about the English notion of ‘leaving Europe’, post-referendum.

Having travelled across France many times in a lifetime, this journey was haunted by the spectre of betrayal. A notion that the lives expended in the creation of the European idea are seen as nought, when the evidence in the rolling landscape offers up the weight of a sacrifice to freedom that we ignore at our peril.

It was in the small, the local and the particular that the best information was to be had about generating new ideas, and not in the grand sweep of international politics and bureaucratic management of economies.

It is in the same context that European communities and businesses will respond to the new ‘English isolationism’.

Philip Rooke, an English entrepreneur, based in Berlin recently wrote in the journal VentureBeat about how the damage to trade and commercial relationships has already begun post-referendum. Although writing from a ‘tech’ development and business operations viewpoint, Rooke’s article illustrates well how the consideration of the local and particular will affect market development and access, regardless of the current mainstream political view in England.

In a clear exposition as a practicing business person in Europe, Rooke argues that he can already ‘…see companies heading to Berlin, Dublin, Amsterdam, and other European hubs‘. That is instead of coming to London or the UK as a whole.

‘Our corporate headquarters in Leipzig in the former East Germany is a microcosm of the benefits of a dynamic inclusive workplace powered by open borders — we have more than 20 nationalities that work together. I am sad that many of the UK voters did not appreciate what this environment adds to the knowledge, skills, and enjoyment of working in a mixed culture’.

Source:         Accessed: 16.08.2016

Rooke makes a tellng point about America, an important market for him. The USA has long been a federation of states, and Brexit he argues, is comparable to California, whose economy is similar in size to the UK, choosing to leave the United States. He argues that this would collapse the California technical marketplace as businesses and people chose to move to other cities in the US. Individuals making a rational choice to foster their interests by disengaging from a spurious political belief in independence, in order to preserve and cultivate their own businesses and careers.

It is a telling argument, but one that relies on understanding the unwritten and undeclared acts of the individual business player. A sort of conflict about the role of enlightened self-interest. In one case philanthropic, in another selfish perhaps. Themes which are never part of the political discourse and populist clamour about, in our case, European unity.

In closing his article Rooke counters the argument, sometimes heard from UK politicians about modelling the future on Norway or Switzerland. In practice, Rooke opines, these two countries have to work much harder, fill in more forms, pay additional taxes and wait longer for responses than mainstream European businesses. Rooke argues that his own multi-national prioritises development strategies away from this sort of market, in order to maintain growth and revenue.

Leave the club, he says and disincentives to growth and development abound, when so many other opportunities, which are border free, are just over the neighbouring horizon. None of these limitations are categorised, prescribed or noted in the current debate on Europe without England.

Although we would never close our Partnership office in Cambridge UK, over the years our projects have become international, even as a micro-business. Whatever the emotional energies or political views of our partners, the Rookeian notion of having a multicultural, cross national presence on mainland Europe makes sense even to us.

It is interesting to think that, in memoriam for all of those individuals, buried in the landscape so recently traversed, it may be that a form of enlightened, social capitalism is, in effect, the last bastion of defence for the European idea in the Twenty First Century.

Another sentence, from my political viewpoint, I never imagined writing.

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BHS – the Parliamentary Report Mon, 25 Jul 2016 16:28:56 +0000 Read more content here...

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.

Read the full report here…pdf version

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 of Session
2016–17 – BHS p.3  Accessed: 25.07.2016

This Parliamentary mission statement delineates old concerns and sources of tension for those of us, who are in or have been in, the Trade Union movement. The stated concerns of the Committee represent an amalgam of old arguments and fierce defensive stands for organised labour in the past. It, as a mantra, is not new.

The message about the inadvisability of exploitation is well developed on the left, what is new, perhaps, is the range of voices now expressing such concerns.

Like all large business, developed and managed through the conduit of manipulated private cash, the focus of the business, the report alleges, seemed to have been the enrichment of individual family members, with scant regard for re-investment in company infrastructure, technology and the long term welfare of company workers after retirement.

‘The truth is that a large proportion of those who have got rich or richer off the back of BHS are to blame. Sir Philip Green, Dominic Chappell and their respective directors, advisers and hangers-on are all culpable. The tragedy is that those who have lost out are the ordinary employees and pensioners. This is the unacceptable face of capitalism’.

Source: Source: First Report of the Work and Pensions
Committee and Fourth Report of the Business,
Innovation and Skills Committee of Session
2016–17 – BHS p.55  Accessed: 25.07.2016

It is the owners of the means of production who were to blame. Marx would have been proud.

What can be done?

  • Those on the left, of whatever shade or fervour, can become interested and active in the development of alternative business forms and modes of governance. Making the alternative ethical case from a political position of encouragement, not criticism. The beginning of transforming the ‘capital landscape’.
  • If the notion of nationalisation for large services and industries is unpalateable, then activists should embrace ‘The Collaborative Commons’, delivering social output and growth in common ownership with others. An old idea given new energy by entrepreneurs and academics recently in The Zero Marginal Cost Society, Jeremy Rifkin, Palgrave MacMillan, New York, 2015. See my review in another publication here.
  • In constituencies, where in my difficult experience, old rigid, command and control practices often continue to exist unfortunately, the energised left should help engage and deliver social business and community business enterprises as a driver of their activities. As cost control is different from rampant profiteering, so good governance and an ethical business position is the alternative face to big business, greed and consumer exploitation. It is not the abandonment of profit that should drive change, it is the added exercise of ethics that matter.
  • Make ethical business and social outcome part of the local and regional campaign activity across the UK, but particularly in rural areas, or those constituencies where blue pennants fly in bold profusion. This will not make an overnight change to voting habits, but members of the left, acitvely involved in new, ethical governance issues will slowly, over time change the perception and the voting record of communities. People will vote against deference and perceptions of ‘the local lord and lady’ know best, when there is a credible, articulate, practice based alternative available. Make social enterprise party praxis, then the communities we serve will too!
  • Work with regional Party machinery to make placing ethical business specialisms and social business governance knowledge on every LEP, school governing body or enterprise development project in every local authority. Make the voice of difference and ethical enterprise heard.
  • Make ethical business activity, the creation of community change through the prism of social responsibility, environmental sustainability and equality of opportunity and outcome the central plank of every Young Labour delivery, for example. Win the hearts and minds of the next generation of social business entrepreneurs, by harnessing their energy progressively, beginning now.

If you do this, then the next generation of entrepreneurs, social innovators and those who set out their stall to govern political parties will also give their vote to the Left. The world of business, forlornly outlined in this Parliamentary report, will have begun to systemically change from the roots up.

There is gargantuan range of research and thought abroad about social business, ethical entrepreneurship and business for good. From 80,000 Hours nurturing graduates to think of others to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, showing the world what business should not be.

Why can the Left not successfully harness it as a core principle?

See the full BHS Select Committee report here.

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