Barclays claim they comply with spirit of tax law

This statement from Barclays was read out on BBC news at 11:23am

“We comply with taxation laws in the UK and in all the countries where we do business – both in the spirit and the letter. In 2010 the group paid over £2.8bn in taxes in the UK and we’ve signed up to the government’s code of practice on taxation.”

Read this Guardian article for details of accusations that Barclays paid only 1% tax on profits of £11.6bn.

UK Uncut are out in force today holding a “bail in” at branches of Barclays bank across the UK.

For live photo updates from Barclays protests, follow these photo streams.

http://www.yfrog.com/froggy.php?username=UKuncut

http://www.yfrog.com/froggy.php?username=MissEllieMae

http://twitpic.com/photos/UKuncut

http://plixi.com/8333076

http://www.yfrog.com/froggy.php?username=directreaction

http://www.demotix.com/news/596509/ukuncut-protest-occupy-banks-londons-west-end

A message to the SWP and Labour

People of the Labour Party, and of the Socialist Worker Party, I have a message for you.

Please don’t destroy our opposition to the cuts.

If that seems harsh, it is. But that is what you are doing. I have had several personal testimonies from people that have attended meetings of anti-cuts protesters but have left or are strongly considering leaving the movement because of takeover attempts by the SWP and recruitment efforts by Labour. Some people attest that people actually walked out of meetings because of the actions of the SWP at those meetings.

SWP, you are seen as too hardcore. You seem to want to run every meeting and every protest. You seem to feel that everyone should agree with you on all issues, and you berate anyone that disagrees with you. Your newspaper sellers are seen as so annoying and persistent that Laurie Penny said “It is highly likely that even after a nuclear attack, the only remaining life-forms will be cockroaches and sour-faced vendors of the Socialist Worker.” Not a nice comment to make, but it does show the common perception of the SWP.

In a quick poll that I conducted on twitter @suziruk said “The SWP patronise and undermine students by making it ‘all about them’ rather than allowing individuals to protest for their own reasons. They see themselves as vanguards of the movement but I think they overestimate their relevance to it.” She later added “Actually one thing I’d say is that when I talked to them individually they are mostly nice people in it for the right reasons.”

Commenting on more prominent people in the anti-cuts movement, @millie_epona said “exactly, and people who think they’re more important and can talk down. I feel pushed out of it at the moment they just make me feel like I have no role. Have stopped going to local meetings so now know I am becoming an armchair activist because I didn’t want to join SWP, basically.”

Labour, you have let down too many people. Your last government privatised and sold our country just as much as our current one, and introduced some terrible authoritarian laws. You aren’t trusted any more, and you haven’t earnt back any trust since losing power last year. You are seen to be drifting along with the governments savage cuts with barely any opposition. You are seen as responsible for many of the same problems which are used as an excuse for the cuts by the Conservatives. It is possible that you have changed, probable that you will change, but as you try to recruit people through their opposition against the cuts you simply alienate them from both your party and the cause. The Netroots UK conference held a few weeks ago was criticised because it was (perhaps unfairly) seen as a recruitment drive for Labour. People felt that the message given to them throughout the day was that they should join the Labour party. Other people have since espoused the view that people should join the Labour party, fight to change it, and then fight against cuts.

@seancourt said “I’m annoyed with people who believe that change can only come if we all say nice things to Labour and ‘reform’ it. Joining Labour won’t reform it, they’ll be the same party that they always were. Only by agitating and forming resistance can we really reform politics.”

The trade unions also need to hear this message. Many people think that they have been slow to join in against the cuts because they want to organise the protests themselves, and would rather people joined them than the other way around.

I have great respect for those that choose to work within a party to achieve their aims, but the fact is, most people do not want to join Labour or the SWP, or a trade union. Many disagree with policies of all of those. People share some causes and disagree on others but it should be acceptable to unite on the causes that we agree upon without pressure to accept the rest. Everyone can and should join the anti-cuts fight if they agree with it, regardless of party affiliation and I am not telling anyone otherwise. I am simply asking the SWP to please refrain from taking over meetings and protests, and I am asking Labour and the SWP to stop using the anti-cuts fight as a recruiting ground for their own ends.

Monopolise Resistance? – how Globalise Resistance would hijack revolt

How to deal with the SWP

The financial giants own you

Many have argued that the only hope for the British economy is to prop up the financial institutions. I have been told that since the UK no longer has a manufacturing industry and cannot compete for work against the likes of China and India, we must focus on being the financial centre of the world as our only hope for our future economy. I strongly disagree. The financial industry is insular and self serving. It might account for a vast percentage of the GDP, but ordinary people do not gain any benefit from that.

It may be true that safeguarding our financial system will keep the GDP of the country up and will keep safe all those investment funds and pensions. People that have had well paid jobs for many years have an interest in keeping “the city” and all those banks going so that they can receive their pension for the next 20 years of their retirement. Unfortunately it does very little for anyone else. It does nothing for those that can’t get jobs, can’t afford to save anything for a pension, can’t buy a house, that perhaps are even struggling to pay for rent and food. Giving tax money to the banks does not result in loans for small business, it results in multi-million pound bonuses for bankers. It was certainly not right to prop up financial institutions at a cost that hurt millions of people.

The government argues that high taxes will drive business away from the UK. I say let them go. Big businesses do not look out for the interests of ordinary people. Imagine if our banks were replaced by credit unions. If our supermarkets were replaced by co-operatives and by small shops on the high street once more, and they purchased their food from local farms at decent prices and did not toy with farmers livelihoods.

Adding to the outrage about the tax changes for the largest companies, the City of London works directly for those financial giants. The City is, astonishingly, independent of the crown and is not governed by parliament. It has a £900 million investment fund. It is not a democracy; instead it is governed by a council of Aldermen. Only a  freemen of the city may stand for election to the council, and someone can only be granted that position by a city Livery Company. You can’t stand for election just by living there.  The City has a Lord Mayor whose stated role is to travel the world to promote the financial industry.  Above all, the City does not work in your interests. It exists to serve the rich financial institutions, and it doesn’t even hide it. Source: www.taxresearch.org.uk

It is not surprising that the government is making these changes, especially in light of this information:

A study by the Bureau for Investigative Journalism has found that the City accounted for £11.4m of Tory funding – 50.79% of its total haul – in 2010, a general election year. This compared with £2.7m, or 25% of its funding, in 2005, when David Cameron became party leader. Source: The Guardian

I am not an economist, and I could well be wrong in my opinion of the importance of the financial industry. But I don’t think I am wrong in this: big business pay for the Conservative party. They control the committees that advise the government. It might be conservative ideology to sell us all to their big business pals, but the Liberal Democrats gave the Conservatives the power to do what they are doing and Labour was no better. Democracy has been hijacked and capitalism has failed us.

The government have sold us out

“Our political system protects and enriches a fantastically-wealthy elite, much of whose money is, as a result of their interesting tax and transfer arrangements, effectively stolen from poorer countries and poorer citizens of their own countries. Ours is a semi-criminal money-laundering economy, legitimised by the pomp of the Lord Mayor’s show and multiple layers of defence in government.” George Monbiot

Since the Conservative government came to power I have been trying to understand the reasons for their actions that I disagree with so much. I have wanted to find a balanced view of what is happening, and tried to convince myself that they really think that what they are doing is for our benefit. I have been assured by my own MP that he thinks that despite the changes to benefits and the cuts to public services, the vulnerable are protected. I wanted to believe that the government thought they were fixing the economy, even if I disagreed with their methods.

I was a fool. The government are lying to us and they know exactly what they are doing.

The headline you will probably have seen today is Government to increase bank levy to £2.5bn and if you read the article you will see that the banks are “livid” about it. It looks like the government is actually doing something about the injustice in our tax system. In fact, it will raise just £800m extra in taxes.

The problem is, that £800m gain will be completely wiped out by what George Monbiot has called “the biggest and crudest corporate tax cut in living memory.

David Cameron told us that while he would like to cut tax, the country is in so much debt that we just can’t. Despite this, he and his government plan to quietly adjust the tax acts of 1988 and 2009 to scrap the requirement for large companies to pay tax in the UK on money earned abroad but not taxed at our levels. We will become one of only two countries in the world that does not charge tax on money that has passed through tax havens. The changes to the law will apply strictly to vast multinational corporations such as banks, oil companies and worldwide communications companies. The quantities of money involved will make even the £6bn of tax that Vodafone wriggled out of look like a pittance compared to to what our economy will lose now. This isn’t just about money either. These changes will make it pay to send jobs abroad too, and many more people will join our unemployed on the scrapheap.

Whose idea was all of this? The government consulted committees about changes to corporate tax law. Here’s some businesses that had representatives on those committees: Vodafone, Tesco, BP, British American Tobacco, HSBC, Santander, Standard Chartered, Citigroup, Schroders, RBS and Barclays.

We did not vote for the changes. This was not in any election manifesto. This was not in any party policy documents. As far as I know, it was not discussed at any party conference. The changes here amount to nothing less than vandalism and theft.

Our government is giving money back to the super rich at the same time as selling off our health service, privatising our education system, removing vital income from the sick and the disabled, cutting care services, killing libraries, even getting rid of public toilets, and much, much more. They are not your government. They exist to serve the filthy rich. Most of the cabinet ARE filthy rich, and they are treating you with contempt.

If you are not angry about this, you should be. If you are not already prepared to stand up and protest, start now. If you are not telling the government that we don’t want this, you deserve what the government is going to do to you. Find an action group. Start your own group if you can’t find one locally. The TUC are organising a massive demonstration on the 26th of March and we should support it. If you can’t physically join a protest, campaign on line. Join a campaign, get involved and say no!

Resources

UK Uncut

National campaign against fees and cuts

False Economy

March For the Alternative

The role of online activism

Much has been said recently about the role of the internet and online activism in protests in the UK and in more serious uprisings in places such as Tunisia and Egypt. Many people speak derisively about the use of social networks in activism as something that will never bring about any change and as a waste of time. Clearly some people disagree, for example the Egyptian government recently shut down most of the internet across the whole country in an effort to stifle the protests there.

There are two natural uses of social media in activism. The first is in simple organisation of events, typically on Facebook. People are now used to responding to party invitations issued as an “event” on Facebook and it is a logical step that protests and marches be organised in the same way. It is now standard for protests everywhere to have a Facebook event page and for many people to indicate on that page that they will attend.

The second natural use is as a way to keep in contact which replaces the mailing list. Groups such as 38 Degrees and Amnesty are good examples of this. Their members sign up on their websites, Facebook and so on, and then receive messages indicating progress made and issuing calls to action. The action is mostly in the form of emailing or writing a letter to various politicians but also covers making sure that news media are aware of the situation and give it coverage. It is clear from recent successes of online campaigns that they do make a difference, even without physically going out into the streets to protest.

Now there is a new use of social networks, and twitter in particular, and that is for online activists to support and promote the “offline activists” that are actually out there on the streets protesting. Those of us connecting up information at home have a big role in it all. We’re collating media, commenting, and linking in all the people that are following the protests, keeping it a cohesive whole.

During every demo, we are frantically passing information to people on twitter, facebook and through blogs to raise awareness amongst our friends that would otherwise be oblivious to what is going on. We have also orchestrated campaigns to get people to complain to the BBC and other news outlets about the lack of coverage. (There have been many many more protests than have been covered by the news, but only the ones with vandalism or violence seem to get coverage.) During the protests photos, video and comments are continuously sent out to twitter from the scene. Activists at home watch the stream of information coming in from those that they follow and via the relevant hashtag. We read the comments, look at the photos and videos and retweet the best ones. The ones that get retweeted by enough people end up causing a retweet storm, appearing in the hashtag timelines over and over again. We pick the best stuff from Facebook and twitter, and write about it on blogs or post it back to social networks where our friends that aren’t directly involved will see it. Once the protesters have returned home and looked at twitter, it is the most popular items that they see. In this way the ones at home have selected the best items and passed them on to all the protesters both to let them know what was happening at all the other protests and to allow them to share the best bits with their own family and friends.

Another aspect of this process that takes place online during the protests is the sharing of information between protesters. As many of the protesters post up information about what is happening around them, others nearby can see and react to this information. The point at which I first realised this was during the protests on the 30th of November. Protesters were desperate not to be kettled by the police and so they broke into groups and scattered across London at the first sign of police blocking anything. As they ran across London, many people sent messages to twitter asking where the police where, and others tweeted about where they had seen the police. People at home responded by passing information from the ones that knew to the ones that did not, and also added in information taken from watching live TV footage. Protesters on the ground actually changed direction based on this information to avoid the police. At other protests twitter has been used to clarify information about how best to leave an area, to find people, and to warn people away from danger such as areas where police where using batons or charging with horses.

So useful has this been, that a group of clever people have taken this whole process and packaged it up into a system called Sukey. Sukey collates information from all the protesters, the police, and the people watching TV or just retweeting information from the scene, and then feeds it all into computer algorithms that watch for trouble spots forming. Sukey then alerts people at the protests via text messages and through maps on their mobile phones and hopefully gives them enough warning to get away before any trouble. This worked admirably well on the 29th of January and even forced the police to be more open and provide more information. My only regret is that Sukey may have made some of my contribution redundant!

In this world of online activism it is still of vital importance that people actually go out and protest in person. To this end there have been quite a few events, workshops and campaigns aimed at turning online activism into offline action. One blog that you should look at for this is Beyond Clicktivism. While it is vitally important for people to have real involvement away from the internet, there are many people that are unable to do so for various reasons including responsibilities at home or work, or illness and disability. For these people online activism is the only way that they can play a part.

Online activists, then,

  • Write articles and blogs about the cause, both for activists and for the public
  • Sift through photos, videos and articles then promote the best ones to other activists.
  • Present the cause, and news about events to activists and non-activists
  • Convey information between activists, keeping them linked and safe
  • Keep a continuous presence on social networks, thus keeping other people engaged
  • Allow people that cannot physically attend protests to play a large part anyway

I was fascinated by a recent article from Market Sentinel and a network graph about connections on twitter related to UK Uncut. The connections are assessed by how often what a person says in connection with the #ukuncut hashtag is retweeted by other people. This is a very rough indication of how involved each name is within UK Uncut. The graph does not show the names of leaders, but the names that the most people find interesting enough to pass on. Because anyone can tweet on the #ukuncut hashtag the graph also shows some of the trolls – unpleasant people trying to bait and taunt others – that were retweeted by other detractors of UK Uncut.

A graph showing influence and connections within UK Uncut on Twitter
Network graph of people most active on #ukuncut - Click to show the full size version

UK Uncut on Newsnight

UK Uncut were featured on BBC Newsnight this evening. I recorded it and uploaded to Youtube to make sure that it reaches a wide audience. (iPlayer is restricted to the UK and only keeps programmes for a week.)

UK Uncut on Newsnight (Part 1) featuring a report on UK Uncut organisation, protests and the CS Spray incident. The documentary film was made by Fat Rat Films, and you can view that seperately on Vimeo.

UK Uncut on Newsnight (Part 2) Studio discussion with Tony Smith from UK Uncut and Richard Baran from the Institute of Directors. Please note that the police claim to have provided medical attention after using CS spray is false.

More information on UK Uncut

UK Uncut website

UK Uncut on Facebook

Twitter: @ukuncut #ukuncut

More on the CS spray incident

More attacks on the right to protest: CS spray

More information about CS spray and UK Uncut

Just in case you don’t believe your ears about what Paxman said at the start of the UK Uncut segment, here it is again.

A head in the sand

I am lucky enough to have an MP that is very communicative. He not only responds quickly to letters, but he also treats email as real communication, and *gasp* even responds to constituents on Twitter. When my wife was being kept from working by an inexplicably delayed CRB check, he intervened and the certificate was here within two days.

Unfortunately the luck ends there. He seems to be blind to any evidence of what the governments ruthless cuts will do to people.  This conversation followed my suggestion that he read the One Month Before Heartbreak blog which is full of real people writing about how the the proposed changes to the benefit system will affect them. Full text after the screenshots.

The full text of that conversation
My original tweet: I urge @peterjluff – and everyone else – to look at http://j.mp/gQRnKz where there are stories of many people that will suffer due to cuts.
I was retweeted (message passed on to followers) by Nemesis Republic:
RT @latentexistence: I urge @peterjluff – and everyone else – to look at http://j.mp/gQRnKz stories of many peoplewill suffer due to cuts
Peter Luff replied to her:
@PeterJLuff: @NemesisRepublic But the alternative (letting country continue slide to bankruptcy with biggest deficit of any major country) is much worse
Apricot muffins commented:
@PeterJLuff I find this statement reprehensible. The disabled among us deserve every protection their country can give them, deficit or not
Which led to this response by Peter Luff:
@apricotmuffins And they will get that protection; what I find reprehensible are the scare stories

And there you have it. Talking about real disabled people in fear for their incomes, their care, their wheelchairs, is a scare story. Talking about our defecit, which isn’t anywhere near the problem that we have been told it is, is not.

In case you thought this is misinterpreting his views, here is another example.

The text of that:

Me: @PeterJLuff I’m afraid I just see savage cuts that are hurting the poor and vulnerable. Where is the social responsibility?
Peter Luff: @latentexistence Well I guess I won’t persuade you, but I see something completely different, with the vulnerable protected.

—-Addendum—-

It transpires that Peter Luff is the patron of the local ME support group. As an invisible disease, ME is one of the most difficult diseases to get help for. I intend to ask Mr Luff how he can reconcile his view that the vulnerable are supported with his experiences with this group.

Serious questions for people that vote conservative

I would be very interested in what conservative voters think on these questions. I know some good people that are conservative, and I am struggling to understand the thinking.
  1. What do you think are society’s obligations to the poor, the sick and the disadvantaged?
  2. Do you think that current cuts will impact the above? If yes, is it unavoidable? If no, why not?
  3. At what point is the cut off point beyond which a person should not get any help?
  4. Do you believe that state has any role in this help, or should it all be personal generosity?
  5. What do you think should happen if personal generosity does not cover required help?

Anyone that does not feel comfortable answering in a comment is welcome to contact me by email if you know my address or via the contact page shown on the top right.

The right to protest, even if it’s inconvenient

This is a quote from a conversation I had today. I hope the other participant will forgive me for reproducing it here.

“Although the right to protest is enshrined in law, the money spent policing these demos will have to be found somewhere and as there is only a finite amount of money someone somewhere will suffer…having to find money to police protests will affect the poorest.”

I had to stop to think about it. It’s true, of course, to a certain extent. Protests on the scale of those against the tuition fee increases will be attended by the police, and like most of our public services, they are extremely inefficient and will run up a horrendous bill in the process.

Whose fault is that though? That the police see it as their job to be present at every protest in vast numbers is not the fault of the protesters. Oh, they will argue that they must be present in case there is any violence but many protesters will argue back – quite convincingly – that it is the police that aggravate the situation and often directly cause problems.

What about the result of finding that money? Assuming that the police aren’t simply left to find the money from within their existing budgets, the current government will have no qualms about taking the money by cutting public services and benefits. To be honest, they’re going to do that anyway because, well, I don’t know what the thinking is there. My MP told me yesterday “Well I guess I won’t persuade you, but I see something completely different, with the vulnerable protected.” I can only conclude that conservatives see different things to what liberals and socialists see.

So will protesting cost money? Yes. But it will cost more than it should because the police seem to feel that it is their job to clamp down on protests.

Will that money come from public services that affect the poor? Absolutely. But that money would be taken away anyway.

Should this stop anyone from protesting? HELL NO! The right to protest is absolute and we cannot have a democracy without it. These protests against tuition fees, tax avoiders and government cuts are making a difference! MP’s have resigned, have changed their minds, have gone in to a panic over this. Keep protesting. Your country needs you.