Category Archives: UK

GCHQ’s Rainbow Lights: Exploiting Social Issues for Militarism and Imperialism

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

GCHQ lit up in rainbow coloursOver the weekend, the British surveillance agency GCHQ — the most extremist and invasive in the West — bathed its futuristic headquarters with rainbow-colored lights “as a symbol of the intelligence agency’s commitment to diversity” and to express solidarity with “International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.” GCHQ’s public affairs office proudly distributed the above photograph to media outlets. Referring to Alan Turing, the closeted-and-oppressed gay World War II British code-breaker just memorialized by an Oscar-nominated feature film, Prime Minister David Cameron’s office celebrated GCHQ’s inspirational lights.

This is so very moving. Gay Brits are now just as free as everyone else to spy on people, covertly disseminate state propaganda, and destroy online privacy. Whatever your views on all this nasty surveillance business might be, how can you not feel good about GCHQ when it drapes itself in the colors of LGBT equality?

This is all a stark illustration of what has become a deeply cynical but highly effective tactic. Support for institutions of militarism and policies of imperialism is now manufactured by parading them under the emotionally manipulative banners of progressive social causes.

The CIA loves this strategy.’

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SNP’s new MPs arrive in Westminster – including Mhairi Black, the youngest in centuries

Trident whistleblower says nuclear subs are insecure, unsafe and “a disaster waiting to happen”

The Sunday Herald reports:

William McNeilly, who says he was on patrol with HMS Victorious from January to April this year, alleges that the Trident missiles it carries are vulnerable to a terrorist attack that “would kill our people and destroy our land”. Infiltrators have “the perfect opportunity to send nuclear warheads crashing down on the UK”, he claims.

He has written a detailed 18-page report called The Nuclear Secrets, which claims to lift the lid on the alarming state of the UK’s ageing and short-staffed nuclear deterrent. He went absent without leave from the Royal Navy last week, is on the run and expects to be arrested. “This is bigger than me, it’s bigger than all of us,” he says. “We are so close to a nuclear disaster it is shocking, and yet everybody is accepting the risk to the public. If we don’t act now lives could be lost for generations.”

The risk was “extremely high”, he told the Sunday Herald. “My information comes from good sources and I have no reason to lie. If change isn’t made, a nuclear catastrophe almost certainly will happen.”

McNeilly’s report alleges 30 safety and security flaws on Trident submarines, based at Faslane on the Clyde. They include failures in testing whether missiles could be safely launched, burning toilet rolls starting a fire in a missile compartment, and security passes and bags going unchecked.

He also reports alarms being muted because they went off so often, missile safety procedures being ignored and top secret information left unguarded.

“It’s just a matter of time before we’re infiltrated by a psychopath or a terrorist,” he says. “There were some people that I served with on that patrol who showed clear psychopathic tendencies.”

The Royal Navy has launched an investigation into McNeilly’s report, and is working with the civilian police to find him. It describes his criticisms as “subjective and unsubstantiated”, stressing that submarines never go to sea unless they are completely safe.’

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GCHQ, intelligence officers and police given immunity from hacking laws, tribunal told

Owen Bowcott reports for The Guardian:

GCHQ staff, intelligence officers and police have been given immunity from prosecution for hacking into computers, laptops and mobile phones under legislative changes that were never fully debated by parliament, a tribunal has been told.

The unnoticed rewriting of a key clause of the Computer Misuse Act has exempted law enforcement officials from the prohibition on breaking into other people’s laptops, databases, mobile phones or digital systems. It came into force in May.

The amended clause 10, entitled somewhat misleadingly “Savings”, is designed to prevent officers from committing a crime when they remotely access computers of suspected criminals. It is not known what category of offences are covered.

The act is primarily deployed to provide legal cover for domestic investigations. It is thought that individual warrants are not being obtained to justify each inquiry. Different legislation – section 7 of the Intelligence Services Act, nicknamed the “James Bond clause” – is believed to permit activities abroad that would otherwise be illegal.’

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British police warn big budget cuts will lead to “paramilitary” force

Vikram Dodd reports for The Guardian:

Steve White told the Guardian that more cuts would be devastating: “You get a style of policing where the first options are teargas, rubber bullets and water cannon, which are the last options in the UK.”Police will be forced to adopt a “paramilitary” style of enforcement if the government inflicts big budget cuts on them, the head of the police officers’ organisation has warned.

Steve White, chair of the Police Federation, said his 123,000 members, from police constables to inspectors, fear a move towards a more violent style of policing as they try to keep law and order with even fewer officers than now.

White told the Guardian that more cuts would be devastating: “You get a style of policing where the first options are teargas, rubber bullets and water cannon, which are the last options in the UK.”

White said cuts would see the bedrock principle of British law enforcement, policing by consent, ripped apart.’

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Good News: UK counter-extremism plans could be used to silence Katie Hopkins

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle East Eye:

[…] As the collapse of post-NATO Libya has accelerated, so have the number of migrants trying to escape the Mediterranean to the shores of the European powers, which had claimed to be saving them.

Now that the villain is IS, not Gaddafi, the Britain-led EU plan for a new military intervention under the guise of “gunboat diplomacy” is all about stopping those victims from escaping the violent extremists we “British taxpayers” helped NATO install.

Thankfully, there appears to be a glimmer of light flickering beguilingly at the end of the tunnel.

This morning, UK Home Secretary Theresa May helpfully explained the government’s exciting – if slightly vague – plan to ban “hate speech” by “extremists” that would undermine “British values” like tolerance, equality, the rule of law, and so forth – including shutting down premises used to promote “extremism,” and vetting the online communications of extremist groups and individuals via Twitter, Facebook and so on.

Under these illustrious proposals, along with other powers recently obtained, the British public can at last look forward to the imminent day when Katie Hopkins will be duly deported after the confiscation of her passport, hopefully to somewhere like Libya where she can witness her version of “British values” in action.

The good news is that today’s Sun frontpage, with surprising nobility and humility, endorsed the Tory counter-extremism proposal under the fitting headline “WAR ON HATE.”

No doubt, once the envisaged powers pass into law, The Sun will gladly hand Hopkins over to the UK Border Agency, voluntarily close down its office, invite the police to vet all its online communications, and apologise for radicalising vast numbers of Britons into hating and disrespecting immigrants, ethnic minorities, asylum seekers, and women.’

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Greatest Threat to Free Speech Comes Not From Terrorism, But From Those Claiming to Fight It

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Greatest Threat to Free Speech Comes Not From Terrorism, But From Those Claiming to Fight itWe learned recently from Paris that the western world is deeply and passionately committed to free expression and ready to march and fight against attempts to suppress it. That’s a really good thing, since there are all sorts of severe suppression efforts underway in the west – perpetrated not by The Terrorists but by the western politicians claiming to fight them.

One of the most alarming examples comes, not at all surprisingly, from the UK Government, which is currently agitating for new counter-terrorism powers “including plans for extremism disruption orders designed to restrict those trying to radicalize young people.” Here are the powers which the British Freedom Fighters and Democracy Protectors are seeking:

They would include a ban on broadcasting and a requirement to submit to the police in advance any proposed publication on the web and social media or in print. The bill will also contain plans for banning orders for extremist organisations which seek to undermine democracy or use hate speech in public places, but it will fall short of banning on the grounds of provoking hatred.

It will also contain new powers to close premises including mosques where extremists seek to influence others. The powers of the Charity Commission to root out charities that misappropriate funds towards extremism and terrorism will also be strengthened.

In essence, advocating any ideas or working for any political outcomes regarded by British politicians as “extremist” will not only be a crime, but can be physically banned in advance. Basking in his election victory, Prime Minister David Cameron unleashed this Orwellian decree to explain why new Thought Police powers are needed: “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens ‘as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.’” It’s not enough for British subjects merely to “obey the law”; they must refrain from believing in or expressing ideas which Her Majesty’s Government dislikes.’

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Cameron rebooted: five more years of a shiny computerised toe in a prime-ministerial suit

Charlie Brooker writes for The Guardian:

It was supposed to be more complicated. After the vote, they said we’d have to get out the constitutional slide rule to try to work out who’d won. The Wikipedia entry on “minority government” experienced a huge spike in traffic. There were more bitter arguments about legitimacy than five seasons of Jeremy Kyle. Everyone agreed the election would herald the gravest constitutional crisis since the abdication, or that time Jade Goody slagged off Shilpa Shetty on Big Brother. Many said Ed Miliband was certain to become prime minister.

Yep. That’s what they said.

Instead, on the night, we got what Game of Thrones fans might call an “Ed Wedding”; from the shock exit polls onwards, the bloodletting never let up. Now we’ve got the full-fat Tory government that virtually no one predicted. And this is where we find ourselves: halfway through the Cameron Decade. The Cameron Era. Cameronian Times.’

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Iain Duncan Smith’s Reign of Terror

Thomas G. Clark writes for Another Angry Voice:

Let me get one thing straight before I start. I’m about as able bodied as it is possible to get. Like most people I’ve suffered a few mental health problems of one kind or another during my life (depression, stress, social anxiety) but never badly enough that I needed long-term support, or that I couldn’t recover from them. I’m not naive enough to imagine that severe health problems will never befall me (I could be paralysed in a car accident tomorrow for all I know), but as of now I’m a reasonably fit and healthy person.

I was severely disappointed when the Tories got back into power but not really all that surprised because I remember 1992, where millions of people lied that they were going to vote against the Tories but voted Tory on the day. What does it tell us that people lie to polling organisations and lie to their friends? It tells us that they’re ashamed of what they’ve done.

One of the things that Tory voters have the most to be ashamed about is the fact that they have explicitly endorsed this government’s shocking track record of mistreatment of the disabled. There are many potential explanations for why Tory voters might have decided to endorse such a campaign of economic deprivation and mental anguish against some of Britain’s most vulnerable people.’

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‘Winner takes all’ vote system exaggerates Britain’s divisions

Mark Trevelyan writes for Reuters:

FPTP v PR‘David Cameron can thank Britain’s winner-takes-all voting system for handing him an outright majority in parliament on just 37 percent of the vote. But by boosting the power of Scottish nationalists, it has also intensified one of his biggest headaches.

The results of Thursday’s election highlight more starkly than ever the anomalies of a system that allocates seats not according to the parties’ total number of nationwide votes but on the basis of 650 local ‘first-past-the-post’ contests.

Conservative leader Cameron earned a second term as prime minister with 11.3 million votes and 331 of the 650 seats. But only one of those seats was in Scotland, where the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) won 1.45 million votes, half of those cast, and took 56 of the 59 Scottish seats.

The resulting electoral map portrays a starkly divided Britain.’

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Tony Blair tells Labour to return to the centre ground to win again

Editor’s Note: A Century of Spin by David Miller and William Dinan contains two excellent chapters (8 and 9) on the rise of New Labour that are well worth a read.

Toby Helm reports for The Guardian:

Tony Blair Ed Miliband's resilience.Tony Blair has insisted that Labour can recover from its disastrous general election defeat only if it reoccupies the centre ground of British politics, proudly championing a pro-business agenda and bold new ideas to reform public services.

As the party attempts to come to terms with a devastating result that saw the Conservatives returned to office for five more years with an unexpected Commons majority, the former prime minister and three-times election winner said Labour has to be “for ambition and aspiration as well as compassion and care”.

While generous about Ed Miliband – praising him for showing “courage under savage attack” and campaigning brilliantly – Blair made clear in an article in the Observer that he believes Miliband’s left-of-centre agenda alienated the business community and failed to appeal to those wanting to get on in life. In an unashamed call for the party to return to the approach of New Labour which Miliband abandoned, Blair wrote: “The route to the summit lies through the centre ground.’

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How Big Money and Big Brother won the British Elections

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Insurge Intelligence:

The Conservatives have won the 2015 elections with a slim majority. Labour and the Liberal Democrats suffered unexpected crushing defeats, prompting their leaders, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg, to resign. And despite winning a significant percentage of votes, UKIP only managed to win one seat, with its leader Nigel Farage also resigning after losing to a Tory MP.

But the Tory victory reveals precisely why British democracy is broken.

The ultimate determinant of which party won the elections was the money behind their political campaigns — the winning and losing parties correlate directly with the quantity of funding received. Yet there is also compelling evidence of another factor — interference from Britain’s security services.’

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Election 2015: How Five Years of Coalition Rule Totally Fucked the Young

Ben Beach writes for VICE:

After five years of austerity that has reduced 13 million people to poverty, the coalition government have presided over a social disaster that shows no signs of abating. Against this backdrop, commentators have chattered about a “lost generation” who stand to be some of the biggest losers from the austerity agenda. By “generation” they mean you and I, and “lost” is a euphemism for “completely fucked”. As the election looms we would do well to look back on how we have got here to see where we should go now.

The coalition limped into power in 2010 promising to eradicate the budget deficit – apparently brought about by welfare largesse – in a single parliament, through eye-watering cuts to public services. Austerity, it was claimed, would return the economy to growth, with the “long-term plan” touted as the only viable corrective. Yet for all the talk about the numbers, the coalition were mainly being economical with the truth: it was a global financial crisis – so severe the world economy was just hours away from total collapse – that had torpedoed the UK’s finances. The UK had incurred huge debts not due to Labour’s budget deficit – which was small in historical terms – but the handover of £1.4 trillion to the banks.

Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize winning economist and blue chip of Keynesian stock, recently remarked that the entire fundamental basis of the austerity push has been discredited; stating that at its core “results were based on highly dubious assumptions and procedures – plus a few outright mistakes – and evaporated under closer scrutiny.” Krugman isn’t alone in his criticism. Even the hawkish IMF has acknowledged austerity is doing more harm than good, so it’s little wonder he describes it as an economic strategy akin to “repeatedly punching yourself in the face”.’

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The Tories’ £12bn of welfare cuts could come back to haunt them

Patrick Butler writes for The Guardian:

By the autumn we will find out how the Tories will make welfare cuts of £12bn a year by 2018. If they go ahead – and there are difficult political choices to be made here – these cuts will amount to one of the defining social policy decisions of the next five years.

The Tories were curiously loathe to explain how they would make these cuts during the election campaign. Either they knew, but were not telling because the truth would scare voters; or they didn’t know, but it didn’t matter because this was only ever a coalition bargaining chip to trade with the Lib Dems.

Ironically, a Conservative majority government may now find itself having to take unpopular choices it perhaps never really expected to have to make.

As we know from this week’s leaked Whitehall documents, when it comes to cuts there is no longer any “low-hanging fruit”. What’s left are in large part harsh cuts hitting middle-income working families: or, as the Institute for Fiscal Studies politely puts it, the “less palatable options”.’

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How Ed Ball’s austerity-lite agenda ruined Labour’s election chances

Thomas G. Clark writes at Another Angry Voice:

One of the great joys of election night is watching particularly despised politicians getting their comeuppance. These occurrences have become known as Portillo moments in homage to the unseating of the the Tory Defence Secretary Michael Portillo in 1997.

Thanks to the SNP landslide in Scotland and the implosion of the Lib-Dem party, General Election night 2015 was full of “Portillo moments” including Danny Alexander (George Osborne’s Lib-Dem sidekick for the last 5 years), Jim Murphy (the Blairite Scottish Labour leader), Vince Cable (the Lib-Dem who flogged off the Royal Mail on the cheap), Steve Webb (the Lib-Dem DWP minister who defended “Bedroom Tax” to the hilt), Douglas Alexander (A key Ed Miliband ally and adviser) and Ed Davey (the Lib-Dem energy minister with the incredibly flexible principles).

Despite all of these high profile oustings the biggest “Portillo moment” of the night belonged to the Labour Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed Balls, who lost his Morley and Outwood seat to a Tory.

I never liked Ed Balls. He always struck me as a pompous and patronising buffoon who would surely have been more at home in the Tory party. A “Tory in a red tie” of the kind that have become all too common since the Labour Party was usurped in the mid-90s by Tony Blair and converted from a social democratic party to a Thatcherism-lite one.’

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Here’s what Britain voted for and will get with a Tory government

Lee Williams writes for The Independent:

I never thought I’d say a Tory victory feels like Christmas, but it really does. It’s just that we, the electorate, are the turkeys.

No doubt we’ll get what we voted for – five more years of the same, with a little bit more thrown on top. So let’s just remind ourselves what that’s going to look like.

First of all there’s that little matter of £12bn worth of cuts to the welfare system which the Conservatives have kept, wisely, under their hats. This will hit hardest the people who can least afford it – the poor, the disabled, the disadvantaged. The death toll due to welfare cuts will continue to mount. But never mind, hey? At least unemployment will continue to fall as more poor people are forced into unfair and inadequate contracts. In turn the number of food banks will continue to rise – already up from 56 to 445 under the Tories – as they desperately try to keep up with spiralling poverty.’

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Snoopers’ charter set to return to law, Tory majority could lead to huge increase in surveillance powers

Andrew Griffin reports for The Independent:

The law, officially known as the Draft Communications Data Bill, is already back on the agenda according to Theresa May. It is expected to force British internet service providers to keep huge amounts of data on their customers, and to make that information available to the government and security services.

The snoopers’ charter received huge criticism from computing experts and civil liberties campaigners in the wake of introduction. It was set to come into law in 2014, but Nick Clegg withdrew his support for the bill and it was blocked by the Liberal Democrats.

Theresa May, who led the legislation as home secretary, said shortly after the Conservatives’ election victory became clear that she will seek to re-introduce it to government. With the re-election of May and the likely majority of her party, the bill is likely to find success if the new government tries again.’

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Anti-austerity = epic win / Austerity-lite = massive fail

From Another Angry Voice:

Look, I can’t really put it much more simply than this:

Nicola Sturgeon’s unprecedented electoral success in Scotland was a result of her crafting a very clear anti-austerity, anti-Tory message, not the result of a sudden rise in nationalism. As the sheer scale of the SNP victory became clear Nicola Sturgeon was very careful to reiterate that the number one priority of the now powerful block of SNP politicians in Westminster would be to oppose ideological austerity. I believe that she is sincere because to make bold assurances like that on election night, then not follow through on them, would severely damage her hard earned reputation as a straight-talking leader that the people of Scotland can really relate to.

Ed Miliband’s catastrophic electoral failure in England was the result of an appallingly confused economic message. The Labour Party can only have themselves to blame. Instead of doing everything in their power to expose Tory ideological austerity as the outrageous and economically incoherent con that it is, they presented a hopelessly confused austerity-lite message. The lunacy of this austerity-lite strategy became absolutely clear in January 2015 when almost every single Labour MP obeyed the party whip and actually traipsed through parliament to ratify George Osborne’s ideological austerity agenda!

The Labour Party response to this defeat is set to be ugly. Watch out for them trying to blame the SNP, blame the stupid electorate, blame Ed Miliband’s lack of charisma, blame Green Party voters, blame the right-wing press, blame BBC bias … in fact anything but admit that it was their own desperate failure to spell out a clear and coherent alternative to Tory ideological austerity that cemented their defeat.’

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The Problems with First Past the Post Voting

David Axelrod: UK media most partisan I have seen – even more than Fox News

Ben Jacobs reports for The Guardian:

David Axelrod, the top aide to Barack Obama who travelled across the pond to advise Ed Miliband in the British election, has said he has never seen a media environment as partisan as the one in the UK.

Asked in an interview with Politico Europe whether he knew what he was getting into when he signed up to advise the British Labour leader, Axelrod replied: “We discussed this when I signed on … I’ve worked in aggressive media environments before but not this partisan.”

Axelrod, who shepherded Obama through two presidential campaigns and the constant media churn of cable news and talk radio, said he thought American media were far less driven by party politics than its British equivalent.

British conservative print media was not only more powerful than Fox News is in the US but was also far more partisan than the cable news network, Axelrod said.’

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The Tories are plotting a coup in the name of legitimacy

Seumas Milne writes for The Guardian:

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron speaks to members of the media in front of 10 Downing Street in LondonIt’s possible that the Tories may yet pull it off, as their Australian alchemist, Lynton Crosby, has always promised. The main parties may still be almost neck and neck. But undecided voters could break to the Conservatives. Soft Ukip supporters could finally deliver David Cameron the votes he needs to stay in Downing Street.

If so, we know what to expect. With or without Nick Clegg, it will mean even deeper austerity, harsher cuts to social security, accelerating NHS privatisation, more attacks on workers’ rights, new handouts to the wealthy, more poverty and job insecurity, and perhaps another downturn in the slowest economic recovery on record.

But so far the numbers still aren’t there. So in case Thursday’s election doesn’t deliver a parliamentary majority for Cameron – even with the support of the Liberal Democrats, Ulster unionists and Ukip – the Tories and their media cheerleaders are moving to implement Plan B. After weeks of stoking English nationalism and painting the Scottish National Party as a mortal threat, aimed at sapping Labour support north and south of the border, the Tory machine has a new focus: any government led by Ed Miliband and dependent on SNP votes, Conservative politicians and their press pack now claim, would be “illegitimate”.

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Extreme finance: the European far-right and its funding

Corporate Observatory Europe reports:

[…] While there is no suggestion that UKIP has itself accepted donations from the Heritage Foundation (that would be illegal under UK party funding rules), the implication of this article is that UKIP has brokered a relationship to try to help another extreme far-right political group in the EU. The Heritage Foundation is a well-known right-wing think-tank espousing “free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense”. It has a record of funding European climate-sceptical thinktanks.

Meanwhile the Front National has admitted accepting (link is external)a €9 million loan from the First Czech Russian Bank, which is based in Moscow and is owned by Kremlin ally oligarch Roman Popov. The loan was apparently brokered by Front National MEP Jean-Luc Schaffhauser. Denying any impropriety, Marine Le Pen has said: “What is scandalous is that French banks aren’t lending”.

On this occasion at least, the European banks who refused to lend to the Front National have got it right. For extreme, far-right groups it seems easy to spout the rhetoric of independence and patriotism, and rather less easy to follow it when it comes to accepting funding.’

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David Cameron and the European Commission: Doing the business of business

Vicky Cann writes for Open Democracy:

Nobody likes the thought of ‘red tape’, over-regulation, and excessive ‘administrative burdens’. But what about rules to protect workers, the environment, and food safety? Actually, these are two sides of the same coin and right now a war is being fought in London and Brussels ostensibly against the former but actually against the latter.

Despite the self-promoted image of David Cameron standing up for Britain against the EU’s so-called bloated bureaucracy, there are some remarkable synergies between his record and that of the European Commission, especially in the area of deregulation and cutting ‘red tape’.

In the UK, the deregulation agenda embarked upon by the coalition hasn’t received the attention it deserves. What is often branded “better regulation” has been a remarkable ideological project driven by the belief that very little should stand in the way of business doing business.’

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Bahrain is ruthlessly crushing dissent and torturing its own citizens, yet Britain is heaping it with praise

Daniel Wickham writes for The Independent:

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond met with the Crown Prince of Bahrain earlier this week. He was there to discuss their “shared regional and strategic goals” and “reaffirm the UK’s commitment” to strengthening their ties with the Gulf monarchy.

Just a day earlier, a Bahraini court had extended the detention of one of the country’s most prominent human rights activists, Nabeel Rajab, for another two weeks. His alleged crime? Tweeting about torture and the war in Yemen.

Hammond has previously told the House of Commons that Bahrain, a long-standing ally and former protectorate of the UK, is “a country which is travelling in the right direction” and “making significant reform”. Last April, the Foreign Office even went as far as to predict that the country’s “overall trajectory on human rights will be positive” due to the “judicial and security sector” reforms being implemented. Delighted by the assessment, pro-government media in Bahrain repeated the Foreign Office’s claims with approval.

A year later, Amnesty International have published a report which points to a much bleaker picture of Bahrain’s alleged progress in implementing reform. Their research finds that, contrary to the Foreign Office’s predictions, “the human rights situation today remains dire and little has changed in practise”.’

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Why don’t people remember David Cameron’s insane rush to war in Syria?

From Another Angry Voice:

Is it just me or has almost everyone forgotten how David Cameron tried to wade into the Syrian civil war on the same side as ISIS (then known as Iraqi Al Qaeda) in 2013, but was defeated by parliament?

Does anybody remember how David Cameron, William Hague and the right-wing press did absolutely everything in their power to try to persuade parliament and the British public that wading into a foreign conflict on the same side as a bunch of murderous Islamist fanatics was a brilliant idea?

Does anybody remember how it was pointed out over and again that the Islamist fanatics that David Cameron was trying to ally himself with were responsible for all kinds of atrocities (the killing of civilians, the torture and murder of prisoners of war, child killing, use of chemical weapons, book burning, misogyny, destruction of cultural artifacts …), yet Cameron and Hague carried on their insane rush to war regardless?

In the run up to the General Election why has hardly anyone mentioned the historic parliamentary vote in which David Cameron’s insane rush to war was defeated? Why are so few people talking about the fact that Cameron’s absurd desire to side with a bunch of brutal Islamist fanatics combined with his incredibly poor leadership resulted in him becoming the first UK Prime Minister to lose a war vote since 1782?’

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Behind the Political Spin: The British Election

‘This election is the closest in decades, so winning over an increasingly disillusioned electorate matters. But instead of actually facing the public, the risk-averse party leaders are stuck on a grim carousel of predictable press conferences and stage-managed photocalls.

Politicians are aided in their cause by an army of spin-doctors that minimize unscripted interactions with journalists and the public alike. These media buffers, crowd fluffers, and party cheerleaders help the campaign stay on message, but in doing so they keep politicians evasive, and the public at arm’s length.

VICE News joined the campaign trail to confront the journalists, spin-doctors, and leaders who all have a part to play in the evolution of this Pyongyang press junket that serves to lock out the great, unvetted public.’ (VICE NEWS)

Planned £12bn Tory welfare cuts will lead to two million a year using food banks, says study

Jane Merrick reports for The Independent:

The number of people using food banks will double to more than two million a year under the Conservatives’ plans for £12bn of welfare cuts, an academic study by Oxford University suggests.

The research was seized on by Labour as evidence that David Cameron’s welfare cuts will have far-reaching consequences for family budgets, including eating into in-work benefits, if the Conservatives get back into power next week. On the Question Time leaders’ debate on Thursday, Mr Cameron said he did not want or had no plans to cut child benefit further – but Labour claims this does not mean he has ruled it out. The Prime Minister, asked about child benefit cuts on BBC Breakfast yesterday, again refused to rule it out.

Labour’s spokesperson on work and pensions, Rachel Reeves, told The Independent on Sunday that the Oxford University study was extremely worrying for families on low incomes, and claimed that Mr Cameron’s failure to rule out child benefit cuts suggested that they were on the table.

Last month, the Trussell Trust, the charity that provides parcels to food banks, revealed that visits had risen to over one million a year for the first time.’

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The Ars Technica guide to digital policy in the UK’s 2015 general election

Glyn Moody writes for Ars Technica:

As the passage of the UK’s technologically illiterate Digital Economy Act in 2010 demonstrated, many UK politicians are completely at sea when it comes to modern technology. But even they recognize that the digital world forms a crucial part of modern life, and that any political party hoping to enter government needs to have policies for issues the Internet raises. That said, the different political parties have very different views and priorities when it comes to legislating for the digital world.

Ahead of the UK’s General Election on May 7, Ars has put together a guide to what the manifestos say on a number of key topics: surveillance; privacy and data protection; copyright and patents; web blocking; freedom of speech; digital rights; and various forms of openness—open data, open standards and open government. The policies come from the following manifestos (in alphabetical order): Conservatives, Green Party of England and Wales, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Pirate Party,Scottish National Party, and UKIP. The Open Rights Group has usefully collected statements on these and a few other areas in the form of a single web page, organized by party.’

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‘Democracy is about more than just a cross in a box every five years’: Interview with Loz Kaye of Pirate Party UK

Editor’s Note: This interview was recorded just over a month ago.

Loz Kaye, head of the UK branch of the Pirate Party, talks to Going Underground host Afshin Rattansi about the upcoming election, manifestos, and mass surveillance. The Pirate Party is ‘crowd sourcing’ their manifesto, allowing the public to vote on what policies they have, as ‘democracy is about more than just a cross in a box every five years.’ He says that whilst new movements like Syriza, Podemos and M5S have grown across Europe, in Britain even the supposed new kids on the block, UKIP and the Greens, are decades old, and what we need are new solutions for new problems. He plans to look at things like tax dodging, accusing no one else of looking at the root causes of the problem, tax loopholes for intellectual property. He also believes it’s important to stop the myth that piracy harms content-producers, saying that ‘so-called pirates are the best spenders online.’ He thinks that there has to be an end to warrantless blanket surveillance, by having ‘oversight with teeth.’ He also says they are the only party putting ‘big pharma gouging profits from the NHS’ on the agenda. And if you think it’s time for change, ‘the only way that they will get that message is if you think different and vote different.’’ (Going Underground)

Green Revolution? Russell Brand Interviews Caroline Lucas and Natalie Bennett of the Green Party