Wednesday 30 March 2016

Will UKIP Cease to Exist after the EU Referendum?

As the moment approaches for which the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) have dreamed about for over twenty years, that is, the referendum on the UK’s continued, or not, membership of the European Union (EU), what lies ahead for the party after the vote?

Well, it probably depends on the result of the referendum, of which, I think, one of three scenarios will occur.

First, if the UK votes for Brexit, then UKIP’s job is pretty much done. They will have achieved their goal of separating us from the EU, and so their members may decide that it is now safe to re-join the Conservative Party (from whence many have come) and be part of a Eurosceptic party, in government. This may though be a problem for some of their best known ex Conservative members, MP Douglas Carswell and ex (Conservative) MP Neil Hamilton, who might not be welcomed back into the fold. But, by and large, I think that will be the attitude of most UKIP members, and they will probably feel at home, in what will surely be a Eurosceptic Conservative Party after a vote to leave the EU. So, it is probably curtains for UKIP in this scenario, as they will have lost their whole raison d’etre.

The second possibility is a large win for staying in the EU, say 60/40, in which case the whole issue of our EU membership will be put to bed for at least a generation and probably more. The country will have decisively rejected the idea of leaving the EU, and I expect the matter will fall away from the public’s consciousness and UKIP will dwindle in members and supporters, until it finally fades away entirely. I will put a rider on this, because the anti-establishment feeling around at the moment, here and elsewhere in the world, could maybe still sustain UKIP but a name change might be necessary, UKP perhaps?  

The third outcome of the referendum may be a narrow win for staying in the EU, which is currently how the opinion polls are looking. In this case, although disappointed, UKIP may be emboldened in the same way that the Scottish National Party (SNP) was after the unsuccessful Scottish independence referendum in 2014. This is the best case scenario for UKIP, in terms of keeping the party intact, where they will cry foul about the whole establishment being against them, and continue to press for Brexit as business as usual. Even this outcome though will still call into question the point of UKIP, so they will need to do some re-inventing of themselves.

Whatever the result of the referendum, I think there is one thing we can be sure of, there will be a split in UKIP. They have barely kept the lid on the tensions within their ranks since last year’s general election.

UKIP’s leader, Nigel Farage has been in a running battle with UKIP’s MP, Douglas Carswell for months now, and similarly with ex Chair and rising star of the party Suzanne Evans who was sacked as Chair for disloyalty to the great leader. Once the referendum is out of the way, there will be an almighty struggle for the party or what is left of it.

I hope they do tear themselves apart, along with Tories who are also limbering up for a fight post referendum. It may be the only good thing that comes out of this referendum is two civil wars on the right of the political spectrum. It should make for entertaining viewing.    

Monday 28 March 2016

80% of Green Party Supporters want to Remain in the EU

An opinion poll by YouGov on the voting intentions of British people in the forthcoming referendum on membership of the European Union (EU), shows that 80% of those identifying themselves as Green Party supporters, will vote to remain in the EU. 20% will vote to leave.

I don’t find this particularly surprising and would put Green Party members even more strongly in favour of staying in the EU, than these supporters. The Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas has played a prominent role in the campaign to remain in the EU along with virtually all prominent figures in the party.

This is the highest figure for staying in the EU amongst supporters of political parties, although Lib Dem supporters are similarly keen to remain (79%/21%), and there are healthy leads to remain amongst Labour (75%/25%) and SNP supporters (75%/25%).   

This is a survey of over 16,000 people, which is a large sample for polling purposes and should be pretty accurate. The headline figures split 50/50 between remain and leave. I would put a health warning on this though, as YouGov’s online polling has shown voting intentions as close whereas telephone polling by other organisations shows a lead for remaining in the EU of around 10% on average.

The other interesting finding of this poll is the regional breakdown of all voters voting intentions. In the North West, South West and South East of England there is a marginal lead for leaving, but a much bigger proportion of voters are intending to vote to leave in Yorkshire and Humber, East Anglia, West Midlands and East Midlands.

On the other hand, large majorities to stay in the EU are recorded in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London.

Taking the UK as a whole, the aggregate figures are striking: together, London, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland divide 60-40 per cent for staying in the EU, while provincial England – that is, all the English regions outside London – divide 53-47 per cent for Brexit.

This throws up the possibility of regional tension after the vote. We know the Scots will likely want to have another referendum on independence if the UK votes to leave, but this might also lead to other areas wanting secede from the UK should we vote to leave the EU. Basically, on this evidence it the is the Celts and Londoners against provincial England, which is a significant split in the UK population and perhaps an indication of a different outlook generally in parts of the country.

Peter Kellner, President of YouGov commenting on the poll and the eventual referendum vote said: ‘It will be a verdict on the kind of country we have become and how we got here.’

Thursday 24 March 2016

An Environmentalism for the Left

Written by Jedediah Purdy and first published at Dissent

Although modern environmental politics emerged in the radical ferment of the early 1970s, leftists were suspicious from the outset of its easy mainstream appeal and its elite constituency. The same doubts persist today. The venerable Nature Conservancy’s close partnerships with corporations and focus on “ecosystem services” that can be monetized are just one reminder that environmentalism’s institutional mainstream fits comfortably with neoliberalism. Consumerist appeals to eco-consciousness (think of the local-sourcing policies and the prices of anti-union Whole Foods) suggest that environmentalism is about image and market choices. Despite decades of talk about environmental justice, the movement remains disproportionately white, elite, and motivated by romantic attachment to high mountains, old forests, and charismatic animals. Even treating climate change as an “environmental” question obscures issues of global justice—the ways that the world’s rich are much more responsible for, and less vulnerable to, the problem than the poor.

What would an environmentalism of the left look like?

It would first of all have to change its attitude to “nature.” Environmentalism is the youngest generation of a longer-running politics of nature. This politics pivots on contested visions of nature’s value, humanity’s place in it, and what, in fact, “nature” even is. From the preservationist movement that helped create national parks and wilderness areas to the awareness of ecological interconnection that inspired the anti-pollution laws of the 1970s, the politics of nature has often been democratic and creative in advancing the notion of the living world as part of a human ecology. But the politics of nature has also been an anti-politics, appealing to “nature” to shut down democratic debate.

Theories of nature justified the expulsion of Native Americans, who were accused of ignoring their “natural duty” to develop the continent. Theories of nature rationalized Theodore Roosevelt’s often progressive but also undemocratic technocracy, which treated the natural and social worlds as problems requiring expertise rather than political contestation. The Romantic visions of nature that powered the creation of national parks and wilderness areas also elevated WASP elites as nature’s privileged interpreters. From Midwestern farms to pristine suburbs to public acreage, American landscapes are a monument to a history of inequality, hierarchy, and exclusion. And they are informed at every point by moral and political conceptions of the natural world—often undemocratic in origin and effect—whose advocates tended to deny that they were political at all. “Nature” has often meant what comes before politics and sets its limits, and environmentalism has sought to speak for nature in these terms.

The first task for left environmentalists is to own up to this history and ask how today’s green mainstream still lacks, or even blocks, democratic and egalitarian projects. A left environmentalism would insist that, as the joint product of natural forces and human activity, the planet’s inequalities are everyone’s responsibility. Turning that idea into more than a slogan might begin with linking rich-world concerns about food sourcing and healthfulness to questions of sovereignty over food systems raised by, for instance, hundred-year contracts reserving food production on traditionally communal African lands for Chinese consumption. It might mean making visible the links between the new natural gas–powered bus lines being touted as “clean” by mayors across the country and the environmental destruction caused by Midwestern fracking. In other words, it could begin by exposing—and questioning—the distributive logic and concealed violence of the exploitation of the world.

The conceptual anchor of such politics might be an update on a very old idea—that the world originally and essentially belongs to everyone, and that this common heritage may be divided into property only in ways that the dividers can justify on moral and political grounds. This idea that the earth is a kind of common gift converges with a more recent one, that the built world—the world that we make—is a shared product of human labor and intelligence, and its fruits should therefore be distributed justly. An egalitarianism for the anthropocene would bring the two together: the world is both given and made, and in both respects it should be presumptively common.

Left environmentalism might also emphasize a democratic version of environmental justice. The attention to racial and economic inequalities in the distribution of environmental harms, which is the usual meaning of environmental justice, is as important an aspect of distributive justice as any other, though it remains unfortunately neglected by many egalitarian thinkers. Truth be told, though, there is really nothing distinctly environmental about it.

Environmental justice also demands something more specifically connected with the future of nature: equal power in decisions that shape the world. Are your interests, values, and way of life among the forces remaking the planet? Or will you have to find your way through a world shaped by others? For previous generations of working people, immigrants, and descendants of slaves, the “natural” world of national parks and wilderness areas was often someone else’s creation. Today, will the inhabitants of mined and fracked landscapes, of villages and towns whose fields are leased out from under them, and of vulnerable coastal regions such as (most of) Bangladesh, have a hand in shaping and making their own world? The principle of environmental justice, like political democracy, is a way of asserting that this jointly created world must belong to everyone. Environmental egalitarianism is in this way a matter of political and social democracy.

Which leads us to maybe the most vexed meeting point between environmentalism and the left tradition: the problem created by natural limits to economic growth. A strand of green politics has always embraced the material limits of the natural world and worried about how to deal with inequality in the face of them. The traditional left, whether of the social democratic or Marxian variety, has instead mostly sought emancipation through growth.

But there is no getting around the planet’s finitude. Although technological change usually blindsides any specific prediction of crisis, the overall logic remains: economic growth increases the per-person pressure on energy sources, food systems, and the global atmosphere. Over the next two centuries, barring science-fiction innovations that essentially decouple human survival from natural resources, people will either find ways to reduce their total demand on the planet or face severe distributive conflict, even resource wars. Easing the demand for growth—as hard as this might seem today—might be the only path to a less divided and more habitable world.

Reformists like John Stuart Mill and John Maynard Keynes once expected economic growth to slow spontaneously. When material needs were met, they argued, people would turn to relationships, self-improvement, and other intrinsic goods, and economies would stabilize. This has not happened. From the United States to China, growth remains the hallmark of economic success and political legitimacy.

An optimistic take on this pattern would hold that human appetites are elastic, and that we are now much more satisfied than our ancestors. A radical take suggests otherwise: we live in an economic order that drives the demand for growth by actively producing insecurity and dissatisfaction. Contra Mill and Keynes, an increase in wealth can redouble a sense of unsatisfied desire. Cars bring less joy when roads are crowded. In a hyper-competitive and stratified economy, an arms race of credentialing means years of higher education are pursued as instrumental prerequisites for a decent job. Total wealth is much greater, but the fight over its benefits, which are ultimately ways of pursuing good lives, means that much wealth and effort go into running to stand still, so as not to fall behind. Anti-union laws, opposition to universal health care, the end of affordable public higher education, and “pension reform” all make the economy more fearsome and workers more fearful. Without economic security and social provision, the world becomes an unsafe place, a place in which you can never have too much protection, that is, too much wealth. So insecurity produces insatiable demands on nature.

Here is where environmentalist and egalitarian projects meet. Only an economy with greater security is likely to produce political forces to limit economic growth because only a secure economy would make an economic slowdown politically tolerable. A world of heightened insecurity and competition is politically unlikely to square economic life with ecological health. Yet, to note the obvious, everyone needs both.

If environmentalism is to be more than a taste in vacations, environmentalists must insist on limits to material progress and offer ways of thinking about both economics and human lives generally that encourage satisfaction within limits. But if it pursues this effort as an individual aesthetic or spiritual conceit, environmentalism will remain deeply conservative, a way of escaping or even rationalizing inequality. Focused instead on how we can build a world worth inhabiting—for everyone—environmentalism offers an expanded picture of democratic life for an age when we have finally acknowledged that political choices shape not just the economy but nature itself.

Jedediah Purdy teaches at Duke and is the author, most recently, of After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene (Harvard University Press, 2015).

Wednesday 23 March 2016

Ecosocialism is the Struggle for the Commons

The term ‘commons’ has some different meanings, for example, the UK Parliament House of Commons, this though refers to ‘commoners’ in England, not people of nobility. In practice these commoners were not ordinary common people but the emerging middle class of traders, merchants and factory owners. It served to separate the powers of state with the House of Lords (the nobility).

The most widely accepted meaning of the ‘commons’ is always mentioned in connection with ‘enclosure’, i.e. what was once common land is appropriated by private interests. In the pre-capitalist era, by the crown and nobility in Europe, whereby they forced people off this land, and then charged them a rent to come back and farm it.

By the time of the industrial revolution, with the capitalists (commoners) replacing the nobility in terms of wealth and power, the little people were needed in the factories in the cities, not in the countryside. People were forced from their common lands with violence, and with no other means of survival, headed to the cities to work in the factories, where their labour was commodified and life was tough and alienating. 

This means that the primary producers of society are separated from their means of production and the rulers are made richer by the enclosing, and the creation of private property is the precondition of capitalism. The history of capital is of a remorseless take-over of collective and organic relationships, to create private property by destroying the commons and embedding this in the accumulation of capital. A productive system that worked perfectly well for the people and for our ecology for thousands of years is destroyed, and replaced by one which works for neither.

If we think about the ‘global commons’, in the sense of things like the Firefox browser, Wikileaks, Wikipedia, Anonymous, the Linux operating system, peer to peer sharing, commons publishing licences and indeed this blog, then this is a sort of commons. I think we all welcome this type of sharing model and would resist it being completely enclosed, but this is hardly on a level with the above enclosures. It does though have the potential for living outside of the capitalist system, and so is a real example of a different way of doing things.

What we saw in the real enclosures was a battle of capital against land owners, with the prize of the third and absolutely vital factor of production, labour. This was also the beginning of the destruction of our ecology, with factories spewing out all kinds of toxic waste, and began the process of ‘climate change’ that we are seeing today. But there was a struggle against the enclosures, and there still is today in many parts of the world, it is always a point of conflict; which has the potential to create a crack in the system, and should be supported by ecosocialists.

But today, in England, with hardly any common land left, how can ecosocialists fight against commons enclosures?

The commons doesn’t need to be rooted to a strip of land, it is an idea about struggle against property and commodification, and the battle between the commons and those who would enclose it manifests itself in many ways.

Local issues like pollution and fracking are fighting for a commons cause against those who would exploit nature for capital gain, at the expense of public health. Campaigns to save parks and open spaces, and for public rights of way are all defending what is left of the commons. On a wider level, campaigns against globalisation and war are for a better commonality for the people.  

In London, housing that people can afford is a huge issue, it is becoming too expensive for even average wage earners to buy a property and private rents are astronomical, and council housing is being sold off under the Right to Buy. And whilst all this going on, many London Councils are doing property deals with developers that knock down old estates and replace them with new, mainly for sale flats, with a few available at an ‘affordable rent’, which is 80% of the market rent, and not affordable for most people.

The housing action groups that have sprung up to defend their estates, not always successfully, have the spirit of the commons alive within them, fighting against private property and to defend the commonly held housing stock.

I’ll leave the final word to ecosocialist writer Joel Kovel, commenting on these type of struggles, from his book The Enemy of Nature:

‘Each in its way is a battle for a kind of commons, a piece of human ecosystem, more integral, more formed, more realised. Each points towards ecosocialism.’ 

Monday 21 March 2016

75% of Londoners back legal action against government over London’s dirty air

A YouGov opinion poll commissioned by environment lawyers ClientEarth, shows that three quarters of Londoners back plans by the group to take legal action against the government to force ministers to improve air quality across the capital.

The poll, carried out by pollsters YouGov, shows that when asked if they support or oppose legal action to force the Government to take action to improve air quality in London, 75% of respondents said yes to support legal action, whilst only 10% said no.

In inner London, where pollution peaks are at times among the worst in Europe, 32 per cent of parents are “very worried” about their children breathing dirty air and 43 per cent “fairly worried”.

Alan Andrews, one ClientEarth’s lawyers said “Almost 10,000 early deaths are caused by air pollution in London every year and despite clear evidence to show that air pollution has a terrible effect on the health of vulnerable groups like children, the government has consistently ducked its responsibility to ensure our right to clean air.

“The UK government’s plans to tackle illegal levels of pollution fall woefully short of what was ordered by judges in a case won by ClientEarth at the Supreme Court last April. Defra (the government department responsible for air pollution) does not envisage London having legal levels of air pollution until 2025.”

Sian Berry the Green Party candidate for London Mayor commented:

“Sixty years after the Clean Air Act helped put an end to the deadly smogs that came from coal fires and power stations, we are now faced with a comparable problem,” she says.

“The time for half-hearted efforts to clean up our polluted air and ensure compliance with existing laws is past. If I’m elected Mayor I will immediately exclude the most polluting cars, vans and lorries from central London, and speed up the switchover to make all new buses and taxis zero-emission. I will cancel road-building plans and oppose all airport expansion.

“I also believe in telling Londoners the truth, and I will provide warnings about bad air days so people can protect their health by cutting car use and avoiding outdoor exercise.

“In the longer term we need an effective new Ultra Low Emission Zone to keep polluting diesel vehicles out of London, along with fair charges on motoring to reduce traffic levels. That’s the only way we can bring pollution down to levels that we can genuinely describe as ‘quality air’.”

Sunday 20 March 2016

The Inside Story of Syriza’s Capitulation to the European Union

This is an edited extract and summary of a much longer interview in New Left Review with Stathis Kouvelakis, a former member of Syriza’s central committee and one of the leaders of the party’s Left Platform. He is now a member of Popular Unity after resigning from Syriza in the aftermath of the Greece’s handling of the financial crisis.

The interview provides a fascinating insight into what was going on at the time, and the full version is well worth a read.

The Evolution of Syriza

The Tsipras leadership made very clear and, in a sense, very tough decisions in that summer of 2012, about the party’s line and about the type of party they wanted. First, they needed to turn a coalition of disparate organizations into a unified party; this was quite widely recognized, and there was no real disagreement about it. They also wanted to use the unification process to transform the culture of the party and its organizational structure at a very deep level. Instead of a push to recruit people who’d been active in the social mobilizations of the period, the aim was to open the gates to the sort of people who want to join a party when they think it has a serious chance of accessing power—clientelist mentalities and habits are very deeply rooted in Greek society, including in the popular classes; there’s a type of micromanagement of social relations.

Kouvelakis says that many of these people were from a PASOK background, the nominally social democratic party whose actions had contributed hugely to the crisis when they were in power, often practising corruption. He then goes to say:

Turning Syriza into a leader-centred party was the second aspect of the process. The aim was to move from a militant party of the left, with a strong culture of internal debate, heterogeneity, involvement in social movements and mobilizations, to a party with a passive membership which could be more easily manipulated by the centre, and keener to identify with the figure of the leader.

The inner-party restructuring went together with the rightward drift. From the summer of 2012 onwards, the position on the euro was transformed into a constant display of fidelity to the Eurozone. This was expressed in Tsipras’s trips to mainstream institutions, mainly in the US—the Brookings Institute and so on….Second, from 2012 onwards, the type of political practice favoured by the Tsipras leadership didn’t move beyond parliamentarism….At this point the Tsipras leadership also started building bridges to people in the core state apparatuses—military and diplomatic circles—and began to indicate their loyalty to the fundamental tenets of the Greek state.

Domestic Policy

There was an unprecedentedly low level of legislative activity. No more than ten or twelve bills were passed in that first period. Most were positive, but they were very limited: a minimal package to deal with the humanitarian crisis, about one-sixth of the package announced in the Thessaloniki programme, including reconnection of electricity, but targeting only the most desperate cases; the €5 entry ticket to go to hospital was scrapped—a widely hated Memorandum measure.

In a few cases, Left Platform ministers could pursue some initiatives. For instance, Lafazanis blocked privatization of land around Piraeus and of the national power company.

Greece’s obsession with the Euro

First, one shouldn’t underestimate the popularity of the euro in the southern-periphery countries—Greece, Spain, Portugal—for whom joining the EU meant accessing political and economic modernity. For Greece, in particular, it meant being part of the West in a different way to that of the US-imposed post-civil war regime…Having the same currency as the most advanced countries has a tremendous power over people’s imagination—carrying in your pocket the same currency as Germans or Dutch, even if you are a low-paid Greek worker or pensioner—which those of us who’d been in favour of exiting the euro since the start of the crisis tended to underestimate.

Even now, after five years of some of the hardest shock therapy ever imposed—and the first imposed on a Western European country—public opinion is still split on the issue of the euro, although now with a much narrower majority in favour of staying in.

Second, in contrast to the position of Sweden, Denmark or the UK, for Greece quitting the euro would be extremely conflictual, because it would mean breaking with the neoliberal policies of the Memoranda. If you are serious about this, you have to be prepared for a confrontation. From 2012, when Syriza emerged as the largest opposition party, poised for government, it was clear that Tsipras didn’t want that fight, which is why he switched to a stance of staying in the Eurozone. Syriza’s original position was summed up by two slogans: ‘No sacrifice for the euro’ and ‘The euro is not a fetish’, which left open the question of how far to go in confronting the Eurogroup and the Troika. But this line was shelved soon after the June 2012 elections.

In the summer of 2015 it was Tsipras who used the argument of fear—that exiting the euro would mean chaos. In early June, after the Eurogroup rejected the Greek terms, which had already been intended as a capitulation, the Syriza Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos was asked by Paul Mason what would happen if Greece left the euro. He replied that it would be a return to the 1930s—the rise of Nazism! Tsipras himself used the image of collective suicide. What such statements reveal is that, for the Syriza leadership, exit was unthinkable—a black hole. It was outside their cognitive mapping, alien to their strategy which had already ruled out the possibility of an all-out confrontation.

Tsipras the Leader

Tsipras’s personal staff were beyond the control of anyone in the party. So was the Commission for the Programme—essentially dominated by the Commission for the Economy, led by Yannis Dragasakis…Dragasakis wanted his hands completely free. He knew he couldn’t put the programme he really wanted down on paper, because the party wouldn’t accept it—but he was the most open in saying the only option was improved management of the Memoranda framework.

When Tsipras went to address what was, in a way, the real audience—the representatives of ruling circles in Europe and the US—the logic of what he was saying was: ‘Look, I’ll lay down my radicalism, of which you are rightly afraid, but in which I don’t genuinely believe. I see things differently now, and I’m ready to be a nice boy, much more reasonable than you think—but I should get something in return.’ He really believed he could get something—that was clear.

The result, you could say, was objectively the worst political betrayal perpetrated by any contemporary left-wing force—certainly in Europe.

Perhaps one could compare Tsipras to Achille Occhetto, the Italian Communist Party leader who liquidated the whole tradition of the party. Occhetto visited NATO headquarters in Brussels and said, ‘This is the centre of world peace.’ He visited Wall Street and said, ‘This is the temple of civilization.’ 

These are things no social democrat, or even a conservative, would ever say. The Italian Marxist Constanzo Preve made the point that former left-wingers who disintegrate internally tend to stop believing in anything.

Tsipras, who built his entire political position on a pledge to abolish the Memoranda, now becomes their loyal servant.


Varoufakis is a more complex figure. As we now know, he was doing things behind the scenes that showed he had an awareness of the need to go beyond what was being said in public. At the same time, he signed up to the 20 February 2015 agreement, constantly defended it and was the first to make statements, as early as February 2015, saying Greece should adopt 70 per cent of the Memorandum. He bears a lot of responsibility for what happened. Nevertheless, he had a clearer perception of the situation and was keen to adopt a more confrontational attitude within that framework—and in fact this was why Tsipras chose him. Tsipras sensed that, even if it was pure theatre, some such stance was necessary if only for purposes of legitimation, or possibly for getting some concessions, and that Dragasakis would be quite incapable of playing that role. He needed a more flamboyant figure like Varoufakis.

The Referendum

As for Tsipras, the one certainty we have is that he only thinks about tactics. There are two possibilities, not mutually exclusive. The first is that he thought he could get what he said: a further sign of popular support to improve his position in the negotiations. The question posed would be sufficiently vague—No or Yes to the Juncker package—that it wouldn’t raise the issue of rupture with the euro. He must have imagined this would take place in a relatively controlled and calm atmosphere—clearly he completely underestimated the effect of bank closures, shortage of currency and so on, when the ECB upped the pressure by cutting off the emergency funding mechanism to the banks. The tension rose suddenly that Monday, 29 June, with the banks closing. At that point it was clear, I think, that Tsipras either wanted the Yes to win, or a very narrow margin for the No.

The second possibility is that he had already taken the decision to sign up to the Third Memorandum, but needed a display of bravery up to the last moment, to legitimize it—so that he could say, ‘You see, I’ve used all the weapons I had, and I couldn’t get more than this; there is no alternative.’ So, those were the intentions.

Lessons for the European Left

First, that it’s impossible to fight austerity or neoliberalism within the framework of the existing monetary union, and, most likely, of the EU as such. A rupture is indispensable. Second, the political practice of radical-left parties vitally needs to articulate parliamentary politics with popular mobilizations; when the second is lost, the first becomes weightless, and actually reinforces the ongoing collapse of representative politics. Third, a proper reinvention of a broad, anti-capitalist vision of society is needed—neither a return to the old recipes, nor a mythical tabula rasa.

It was predictable that defeat in Greece would send a negative shock wave across the rest of Europe. Though there are other factors involved, I think it played a role in Podemos saying they won’t break with the euro, not even with the Stability Pact, and revising their position on the debt. Currently, they’re not even setting a break with austerity as a condition for collaboration at government level. Iglesias says that the point is to rise above the shoulder of PSOE and orient the hand of social democracy to the left. The Portuguese have drawn a similar conclusion; there the impact of Syriza’s defeat is even more apparent. I can understand that the deal struck by the Left Bloc and the Portuguese Communist Party with the Socialists was to some extent a tactical move, because the right had lost its majority in parliament, and there was a demand to allow the Socialists to take over—otherwise the right would once again be in command.

But it’s a fundamental mistake for formations of the radical left to agree to a line that is merely complementary to social democracy. We don’t need radical-left parties to make deals with social democracy to limit foreclosures, raise the minimum wage by €50, cancel some redundancies in the public sector, and so on. If we really think that’s the best we can get, we should operate within the framework of social democracy, and try to obtain some concrete improvements. But for a political current that supposedly has an alternative vision for society, accepting this as the horizon can amount to giving up on that vision.

That’s the danger that the remainder of the radical left faces in Europe now, after Syriza’s failed attempt: the danger of giving up on the very idea of more radical change. But not everyone draws the same conclusions. Mélenchon has organized discussions in Paris about the need for a Plan B—I think he has drawn more correct conclusions from the Greek case, and denounced Tsipras’s capitulation. He is now talking openly about the necessity for all the parties of the European radical left to make alternative plans which do include the option of leaving the euro and preparation for full-scale confrontation. There is a similar conference in Madrid initiated by the left of Podemos—Anticapitalistas and other forces on the radical left in Spain, which also include part of the Catalan radical left, and so on. So, there are forces who are drawing the relevant conclusions.

Saturday 19 March 2016

Is Duncan Smith’s Resignation the Beginning of the End for Cameron?

(Photo Manchester Evening News)

Last night’s dramatic news that Iain Duncan Smith had resigned as the Work and Pensions Secretary continues to reverberate around British politics. Duncan Smith has tried to spin his resignation as a matter of moral principle, saying that he does not support the Budget proposal to cut £1.3 billion from disabled people’s benefit payments.

This is rather curious, not only has Duncan Smith presided over billions of pounds of welfare cuts, including to the disabled, over the last six years, but also because the government had already signalled a re-think of the Budget proposal, conscious that Tory MPs were set to rebel and defeat the government in Parliament over the issue, if necessary.

Duncan Smith has said that after he was forced to defend the policy, to see it jettisoned was the final straw, but that is just politics. Duncan Smith has back tracked before, and this looks to be in the normal run of events of a government with small governing majority.

I think there is much more to this. Duncan Smith is a well-known Eurosceptic, and he has never really trusted the Prime Minister, David Cameron, over his negotiations on European Union (EU) reforms. Duncan Smith has only really been in the Cabinet because of the EU referendum, where Cameron judged it better to have him government, rather than causing trouble outside of it.

If all goes to plan for the Prime Minister, and the country votes to remain in the EU, I expect Duncan Smith would be sacked by the autumn at the latest. By resigning now, Duncan Smith has signalled a challenge to Cameron’s leadership and possibly stuck a fatal dagger into the back of the Chancellor, George Osborne, who is Cameron’s preferred successor when he stands down at some stage in this Parliament.

Certainly, there is no love lost between Osborne and Duncan Smith, with Osborne reported in the past as saying that Duncan Smith ‘is just not very clever’, and they have had constant battles over the welfare budget.

An interesting piece written by Kerry-Anne Mendoza at The Canary, makes the point that this is indeed an attempt at a coup by the Brexit wing of the Tory party, and that Boris Johnson is likely to have been involved, or at least informed about it.

Boris Johnson’s decision to join the Brexit campaign has virtually assured him of the leadership of the party once Cameron does go, but the sooner Cameron goes the better for Johnson and the worst for Osborne, although rumours abound that Osborne’s budget set us on course for a general election (with him as leader, he hopes) in next couple of years. Osborne doesn't plan to make the same mistake as Gordon Brown when he succeeded Tony Blair as Labour Prime Minister, by failing to call a general election, to obtain a 'personal' mandate.

So Europe, once again, is tearing the Tory party apart. The Eurosceptic wing of the party, roughly half of their MPs and probably three quarters of the rank and file membership, could force a leadership election after the EU referendum. Certainly, if we vote to leave there will be a challenge, but it is looking increasingly likely, that there will be one even if we remain.

All the pent up frustration of the Eurosceptics will need an outlet if we stay in the EU, and Cameron is increasingly seen as a traitor, who conned them with the offer of a referendum after renegotiations of our membership terms. His negotiations are considered to be inconsequential, and just a smoke screen to keep the Tory party united.

The next few months could finish off this government, and it is notable that a YouGov opinion poll released yesterday, shows for the first time under Corbyn’s leadership, Labour ahead in an opinion poll. It is only by one point, and as we know opinion polls are not terribly reliable, but this does compare to a steady Tory lead of around ten points since last year’s general election.

The split in the Tory party can only get wider, and we may get a chance to kick them out of government sooner than we had thought possible. It may be that Duncan Smith’s resignation, is his most significant act as a political operator.  

Friday 18 March 2016

Latest Leak Confirms TTIP a 'Serious Threat to Democracy as We Know It'

Protesters demonstrate in Brussels against the TTIP earlier this year. (Photo: AFP/Getty)

Written by Deirdre Fulton and first published at Common Dreams

EU member states and the European Parliament will be "sidelined" in favor of big business and U.S. interests should the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) go through, according to a leaked document revealed Friday.

The leak, of the corporate-friendly trade deal's draft chapter on "regulatory cooperation" between the EU and U.S., was made public by The Independent and Brussels-based campaign group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO).

It exposes "a labyrinth of procedures that could tie up any EU proposals that go against U.S. interests," as The Independent put it, as well as "the extent to which major corporations and industry groups will be able to influence the development of regulatory cooperation."

As Kenneth Haar, researcher for CEO, explained:
Lengthy procedures, including vetting by business for possible economic impacts, are thus envisaged for new regulations. Such measures have already been used informally to weaken EU ambition on financial sector supervision in the years leading up to the 2008 collapse, to offer a free pass to US companies on personal data protection, and to delay or water down EU proposals on animal testing and aviation emissions.
This leaked document from the negotiations confirms fears that the Commission will be obliged to consult with US authorities before adopting new legislative proposals while EU Member States and the European Parliament are sidelined. The leak also offers a glimpse at the proposed bureaucratic labyrinth of impact assessments, dialogues, consultations and reviews that could tie up any proposals that go against US business interests.
In short, he said, "this document shows how TTIP's regulatory cooperation will facilitate big business influence—and U.S. influence—on lawmaking before a proposal is even presented to parliaments."

Nick Dearden, executive director of Global Justice Now, told The Independent: "The leak absolutely confirms our fears about TTIP. It's all about giving big business more power over a very wide range of laws and regulations."

As such, Haar added, the TTIP represents "a serious threat to democracy as we know it."

The proposed trade deal, being negotiated in secret, faces growing opposition across the European continent.

Just last month, a report from Global Justice Now and the Netherlands-headquartered Transnational Institute showed how the TTIP would undermine national sovereignty by hampering governments' ability to enact effective and fair tax systems to finance vital public services. Also last month, heavily redacted documents obtained by the Guardian revealed that European officials had assured ExxonMobil that the pending U.S.-EU trade agreement would force the removal of regulatory "obstacles" worldwide, thus opening up even more countries to exploitation by the fossil fuel empire.

After the latest round of talks last month, trade officials pledged to accelerate negotiations in the hopes of releasing a full draft text by this summer, and reaching the final stage of talks by October.

However, speaking in Moscow on Friday, former Prime Minister of Italy and former President of the European Commission Romano Prodi said he sees "no prospect" for the deal to be finalized before the U.S. presidential election in November.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny made similar remarks on Thursday, telling journalists in Brussels:

"It now appears as if the TTIP arrangements will not be completed before the American presidential election," and adding that this would probably create "a sense of vacuum."

Tuesday 15 March 2016

Why Labour Lost the General Election

The New Statesman this week publishes findings from a leaked Labour Party report into why voters shunned the party at last year’s general election. The report is based on findings from the BritainThinks consultancy’s study of focus groups last summer, and explores the reasons why Labour did so poorly.

The results will hardly be a surprise to anyone, but this does back up the feelings that I had at the time, when I did expect a poor performance from Labour, albeit, that I thought the Tories would be short of an overall majority. The main reasons that people say put them off voting for Labour are summarised below:

Financial Profligacy

Voters felt that Labour when in government wasted money and spent it on the wrong things, particularly welfare benefits and bailing out the banks. Whilst it is true that Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) and Public Private Partnership (PPP) under Labour were very poor value for money, this was something started by John Major’s Tory administration in the 1990s. Typically, huge amounts are charged by private firms over 25 years or so, for new hospital buildings etc, when a refurbishment would have been much cheaper, but businesses were not interested in that. 

Many hospital trusts are struggling financially today because of these huge payments they have to make. The bank bail outs were probably a necessity when the crisis unfolded, but they were left in the hands of the private sector, and continued to pay huge bonuses to senior managers. They should have been nationalised.

But, the Tories would no doubt have done the same thing, and they would probably have deregulated the banks even more than Labour. What seems to have happened is that Labour failed to challenge the Tory narrative, of Labour being wasteful spenders, with barely a peep out of Labour on the matter. Once this took hold, they were never going to win. Why were they so silent in their own defence?

The same with welfare benefits, the Tories put it about that all those on benefits are work shy scroungers, when half of the welfare bill is spent on pensioners. Again, why no rebuttal from Labour?

Ed Miliband

Labour was seen as uninspiring, defensive and unimaginative, and the leader Ed Miliband was the personification of this. One voter described Miliband as having ‘the appeal of a potato,’ and many were motivated to keep him from being Prime Minister. At first I saw Miliband as a thoughtful type, who would build up his profile as he went along, but for some reason this just didn’t happen, and he looked like a rather hapless character. This was summed up with him falling off the stage at the end of the first televised debate.

I suspect some of his more radical ideas were stymied by the shadow cabinet, but he would have been better to have  gone down being his own man, rather lose so meekly, just to keep his colleagues happy. Perhaps his only achievement was keeping the party together, as we see now, it is riven with division, since Corbyn became leader.


Scottish voters saw Labour under Miliband as pretty much a continuation of the Blair/Brown new Labour approach, which the Scots felt had been a huge let down. Labour was seen as a less competent version of the Tories. Miliband standing shoulder to shoulder with Cameron in the independence referendum did not help either. The Scots now pin their hopes on the SNP, who they see as competent and more socialist. Scotland looks to be beyond Labour for a generation at least.

For English voters, the prospect of a Labour SNP coalition was feared as favouring the Scots over the English and with a respected leader in Nicola Sturgeon, who it is perceived, would wipe the floor with Miliband.

Not many crumbs of comfort for Labour in these findings, but the Tories are still not particularly liked, and if Labour did get its act together with a popular leader and clear definition of what it is about, they could be reconsidered. Whether Corbyn’s Labour can do that, is still a very open question. The in fighting in the party will not help that cause, and Labour looks to be staying in the wilderness for the foreseeable future. 

Sunday 13 March 2016

Food, hunger, health and climate change

Written by Alistair Woodward and John R. Porter, and first published at The Lancet.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the effects of climate change on food security could be some of the most serious in the near-to-medium term, especially if global mean temperature increases by 3–4°C or more.1,2 In The Lancet, Marco Springmann and colleagues3 dig deeper, and report the most advanced projections so far of the effects of climate change on food and health for 155 regions in the year 2050. The researchers drew on a rich mixture of emission trajectories, socioeconomic pathways, and possible climate responses to model effects on global production, trade, and consumption.

Country-level estimates of food consumption were linked to a comparative risk assessment to calculate change in the number of deaths attributable to climate-related changes in diet and bodyweight. The reference scenario was a world without climate change.

The headline is that climate change will slow progress, cutting the anticipated improvement in food availability by about a third (per-person reductions of 3·2% [SD 0·4%] in global food availability, 4·0% [0·7%] in fruit and vegetable consumption, and 0·7% [0·1%] in red meat consumption), and that these changes will be associated with about 529 000 (95% CI 314 000–736 000) additional deaths in 2050. This is a 28% (95% CI 26–33) reduction in the number of deaths that would be avoided because of changes in dietary and weight-related risk factors between 2010 and 2050. The study by Springmann and colleagues is the first to assess the effect of changes in diet composition under climate change, and finds that dietary changes, especially reductions in fruit and vegetable consumption, have a much greater effect on health worldwide than the loss of calories. Most climate-related deaths are projected to occur in south and east Asia.

Climate change will have some positive effects, according to this study, such as a reduction in the prevalence of overweight and obesity in some countries compared with what would be expected with unimpaired growth in food availability. However, the saving of about 260 000 fewer deaths in 2050 is balanced almost exactly by an increase in the number of deaths caused by people being underweight worldwide (266 000 additional deaths [95% CI 203 000–329 000]). Moderation of increases in emissions of climate-active pollutants will have health benefits: the numbers of diet-related and weight-related deaths attributable to climate change are reduced by about 30% when medium-climate-change scenarios (representative concentration pathways [RCPs] 6·0 and 4·5) are applied, instead of the high-end RCP8·5 scenario.

An analysis of this type is not straightforward, and perhaps the most important and most difficult issue is the timescale. Projections of climate-related effects are compounded with uncertainties resulting from variations in emissions pathways, climate responses to raised concentrations of greenhouse gases, effects on natural systems, and the sensitivity of human populations to environmental change.4 These uncertainties mean that the further into the future models are driven, the less accurate or precise are the outputs. Accordingly, many assessments of climate change, including that by Springmann and colleagues,3 focus on the next few decades. But what if there is good reason to believe the greatest risks lie further out, beyond 2050?

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office recently co-sponsored a study to investigate what the worst-case outcomes of climate change might be, and where and when intolerable damage might occur.5 Following the RCP8·5 pathway, it was estimated that moderate-to-heavy-intensity work outdoors, as is necessary for agriculture, would more likely than not be physiologically impossible during the hottest month of the year in northern India in the early part of next century.5 The study also estimated that failure of the rice crop in southern China due to high temperature stress can change from a 1 in more-than-100-year event to become a 1 in 10-year event under a scenario of 2–3°C global warming and a 1 in 4-year event in the case of 5–6°C global warming.5 Such extreme, but not implausible, effects on food production6 are missing from the analysis by Springmann and colleagues.

Restriction of our view of the consequences of climate change to what might happen in the next 30–40 years is understandable in terms of conventional concerns with data quality and model stability, but might underestimate the size of future risks, and therefore undervalue present actions needed to mitigate and adapt. A worst-case analysis is not unusual in risk assessments in other areas when the stakes are high—those responsible for national security, high-level decision making in the insurance industry, and business planning take seriously the possibility of devastating outcomes, even if such events seem unlikely and are difficult to quantify.

Another challenge for global assessments is to paint a big picture that has value at a country level. Because of data restrictions, many smaller nations are missing from the results presented by Springmann and colleagues. Some, such as the small Pacific island states, are especially vulnerable to climate effects.7 Moreover, between-country associations might not be a good guide to what happens within countries. For example, food availability is positively related to body-mass index internationally, but within high-income countries the highest prevalence of obesity is often seen in socially disadvantaged groups who are comparatively food insecure.8

In December, 2015, in Paris, governments agreed for the first time on an international response to climate change—one that includes nearly every country and accepts the need to hold warming by 2100 to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and if possible to no more than 1·5°C above these levels.9 Governments agreed that global emissions will peak “as soon as possible” and then fall rapidly to reach zero net emissions in the second half of this century. To achieve such ambitious goals, the world must make radical changes in the use of energy.

Without due care, responses to climate change could have greater effects, in the short term, than climate change itself. Fossil energy is a major input into food production through nitrogen fertiliser and irrigation, and to find ways of reducing emissions without damaging health will be a challenge. Expanded use of biofuels might compete with food crops, carbon-pricing regimes could aggravate food insecurity in the poorest populations, and culling of livestock to control methane emissions might be detrimental unless alternative sources of protein, energy, and nutrients are available.10,11 Springmann and colleagues3 have moved the climate and food debate in a necessary direction by highlighting both food and nutritional security, but a mountain of policy-relevant questions remain that require close scrutiny.

We declare no competing interests.


  1. Porter, JR, Xie, L, Challinor, A et al. Food security and food production systems. In: Climate change 2014: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.; 2014. ((accessed Feb 12, 2016).)
  2. Woodward, A, Smith, KR, Campbell-Lendrum, D et al. Climate change and health: on the latest IPCC report. Lancet. 2014; 383: 1185–1189
  3. Springmann, M, Mason-D'Croz, D, Robinson, S et al. Global and regional health effects of future food production under climate change: a modelling study. Lancet. 2016; (published online March 2.)
  4. Cramer, W, Yohe, GW, Auffhammer, C et al. Detection and attribution of observed impacts. In: Climate change 2014: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.; 2014. ((accessed Feb 12, 2016).)
  5. King, D, Schrag, D, Dadi, Z, Ye, Q, and Ghosh, A. Climate change: a risk assessment. Cambridge Centre for Science and Policy, Cambridge; ((accessed Feb 12, 2016).)
  6. Sanchez, B, Rasmussen, A, and Porter, JR. Temperatures and the growth and development of maize and rice: a review. Global Change Biol. 2014; 20: 408–417
  7. McIver, L, Kim, R, Woodward, A et al. Health impacts of climate change in Pacific island countries: a regional assessment of vulnerabilities and adaptation priorities. Environ Health Perspect. 2015; (published online Dec 8.)
  8. Brown, A and Siapush, M. Risk factors for overweight and obesity: results from the 2001 National Health Survey. Public Health. 2007; 121: 603–613
  9. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Conference of the Parties 21st Session, and Paris 30 November–11 December 2015. Adoption of the Paris Agreement.; 2015. ((accessed Feb 12, 2016).)
  10. Randolph, TF, Schelling, E, Grace, D et al. Invited review: role of livestock in human nutrition and health for poverty reduction in developing countries. J Anim Sci. 2007; 85: 2788–2800
  11. Naylor, RL, Liska, AJ, Burke, MB et al. The ripple effect: biofuels, food security and the environment. Environment. 2007; 49: 30–43

Thursday 10 March 2016

Is the Labour Right Limbering Up for Leadership Coup?

Much of the media are reporting today’s speech by Labour MP, Dan Jarvis, to the think-tank Demos, in terms of a thinly veiled bid for the leadership of the Labour Party. The Guardian reports, ‘Dan Jarvis distances himself from New Labour as leadership talk grows’, which is typical of the coverage. For those interested in the finer details, Labour List has reproduced the speech in full.

It has been clear ever since Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader last year, that the right of the party, especially Labour MPs, have been mobilising to launch a coup, when they think they have a chance of toppling the incumbent. It has also been clear that the Scottish Parliament, London Assembly and English council elections in May would be the earliest opportunity available to mount a challenge to Corbyn, if Labour does badly in these elections.

Jarvis has been rumoured as a possible candidate to stand for the leadership for a while now, and another MP on the right, Rachel Reeves, is being talked about as a possible shadow Chancellor, in a Jarvis lead Labour, and she did nothing to dispel this notion in her own speech on Monday about economic matters.

The soundbite Jarvis leaked to media ahead of his speech was the shameless reworking of Tony Blair’s ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’ slogan when he was shadow Home Secretary in the 1990s. Crime was replaced by ‘inequality’ in the Jarvis version of the phrase but he also made supportive noises about trade unions, in a pitch for the soft left Labour vote.

Meanwhile, Momentum, the Labour party grass roots organisation, formed by Corbyn supporters in the wake of his victory in the leadership election, has vowed to fight off any attempt at a coup.

First things first though. Will Labour do badly in the May elections? Jarvis has been talking up the idea that Labour should do well in these elections, but I think it is bound to be a mixed bag for them.

Labour is not making any impression in Scotland, but that is hardly Corbyn’s fault, since it has been Labour's steady march to the political right over 30 years that has eroded their support north of the Border. I suspect the Scots are sceptical that Corbyn will last the course as leader, or in any event will not win a general election, and are showing no signs of breaking with their new party political home, the SNP. A Jarvis leadership would do nothing to change this anyway.

In the council elections, Labour did pretty well the last time these elections came around, something of an electoral high point in former leader Ed Miliband’s regime. Labour will be lucky to repeat this feat though, and they are likely to lose some councillors and control of a few councils. Given the vitriol poured on Corbyn and his supporters by the mainstream media since he became leader, I will be surprised if Labour don’t do worse than last time.

London may be a different story though. Labour is strong in the capital and opinion polls show Labour’s mayoral candidate, Sadiq Khan, in the lead. This, despite a right wing campaign to try and paint Khan, as some sort of terrorist sympathiser. One caveat on this though, if the Tories can mobilise the outer London vote, and Labour fail to get the inner London vote out, the Tories could win London.

Even if Labour do badly in these elections, it is hard to see anyone defeating Corbyn in a ballot of members, so soon after his overwhelming win last summer. But the Labour right seem to have a plan. Mindful of the fact that not many Labour MPs support Corbyn, if they do force another leadership vote, they might be able to bar Corbyn from standing, as he would not get enough MP nominations next time. Under the current Labour Party rules, they may have a case. No one ever thought that an incumbent leader would not be able to muster the support of 15% of Labour MPs and MEPs.   

Corbyn’s supporters are trying to change these rules, and they may succeed, but even if they don’t, I can’t really see a leader elected so convincingly by the membership, being barred from standing in a future election, not now anyway, after less than a year as leader. Labour MPs would look vindictive and anti-democratic.

My bet is, that no challenge will come this year, but I certainly wouldn’t rule it out at some stage in this Parliament. I think the right will need much more evidence of likely election failure to make a credible case for ditching Corbyn.

Tuesday 8 March 2016

Will Cannabis use be Legalised in the UK?

I’m not known for heaping praise on the Liberal  Democrat Party, but hats off to them on this issue. As The Independent reports today, the Lib Dems set up an independent panel of experts to look into legalising cannabis in this country, comprising of, scientists, academics and police chiefs, which has recommended making the currently outlawed drug legal.

This follows in the wake of a shift in thinking around the world, with the realisation that the ‘war on drugs’ has been an abject failure in preventing the use of drugs, including cannabis, and costs a huge amount in public resources, and all for what? What is the point of criminalising people in possession of small amounts weed?

In the US, Colorado and Washington have legalised cannabis use, whilst Uruguay has followed suit. Jamaica has legalised the possession of up two ounces of the drug and Canada looks set to regulate cannabis use in the near future too.

The panel recommends the UK taking a similar approach to that of Uruguay, which is a less commercial model than in Colorado, where cannabis can be bought over the counter at licensed outlets, quite possibly chemist shops here and small scale cultivation for self use is allowed. Cannabis clubs could also be allowed to sell the drug to their members.

There would be a state regulator, similar to Ofcom or Ofwat, and perhaps it will be called Ofhead?

At present, in the UK, cannabis is an illegal class B drug, with a maximum penalty for possession of relatively small amounts, of five years in jail. Cultivation and supplying the drug has a maximum custodial sentence of 14 years. In practice, many police forces around the country will issue only police cautions to those caught in possession of small amounts.

One of the few benefits of the government’s slashing of public spending in London, has seen the police abandon the practice of descending on underground station forecourts with cannabis sniffer dogs, to catch people carrying a bit of weed. As I say, often this only results in a police caution, but it is harassment all the same. The police have rightly identified this activity as a waste of money and resources, for no real benefit to policing the city.

Allowing home cultivation and legal suppliers is actually likely to reduce crime generally, as the criminal gangs that make a lot of money supplying cannabis will become redundant, with all the savings for police resources that will entail. Prohibition just doesn’t work. On top of which, the panel believes legal sales could raise up to £1 billion in tax revenues.

So, the case is over whelming, and frankly obvious to anyone who thinks about it for five minutes. Will it happen in the UK? I have to say, I very much doubt it. The Daily Mail would be outraged, as they peddle a kind of Victorian morality where no one is allowed to enjoy themselves.  

Indeed, all illegal drug policy needs to be rethought through, with it being treated as a health and education issue, not one for the criminal justice system.

This is what a Home Office spokesperson said on the matter, as reported at the UK Huffington Post:

"clear scientific and medical evidence that cannabis is a harmful drug which can damage people's mental and physical health, and harms individuals and communities". The government has no plans for any changes to the law.

As if alcohol is any different, in fact it is much more injurious to physical and mental health, not to mention the problems caused by drink related violent crime.

Our politicians have a blind spot on this, or probably more likely they know the facts but are too scared of upsetting some of the reactionary elements in the mainstream media, to allow sound logic to dictate drug policy.