This is the Detail Which Everyone Misses about Propaganda

On why we need to change the way we read absolutely everything.

 

It’s astonishing, is it not?

How easily people seem to fall for plain lies in the post-truth era. Even the most ardent Brexiteer, has had to disassociate themselves from the promises of their campaign like the £350m per week for the NHS that we were supposed to be getting after Brexit [1], and admit that Brexit will be a net loss to the UK regardless of how it is conducted [2].

And what about Trump’s wall? Theresa May’s entire manifesto; from fox hunting to free school meals for children, appears to have vanished into thin air as soon as she had the votes she needed. No questions asked.

That is usually how I define ‘post-truth’ to other people in political discussion; where something only needs to be ‘true’ for as long as you need it to get the public to swing your way. The Daily Mail do it all the time- publish lies on their front page and then do microscopic corrections weeks later, when the damage has already been done [3].

Adam-Rabalais-Star-Wars-Propaganda-Book-poster-2

But how did we get to this state of affairs? Where people believed the monotonously repeated Tory slogan about Theresa May being “strong and stable”?

Theresa May is fast becoming famous for her U turns [4] and seems to have an understanding of trade negotiations that is mediocre at best, and yet still people bought her “strong and stable” mantra. Hook, line, and sinker.

So why does it work so well? And in almost every instance in history. If you just repeat something enough, people start to believe it. It worked in Hitler’s Germany, Mao’s China, the US, Stalin’s Russia, the UK, North Korea… anywhere you go, it works.

How? Well, actually, the answer is that “how?” was your next question.

Everyone reacts that same way: How? I could never be that stupid!

And that’s why it works. No one thinks they are vulnerable to it, so everyone is, without exception. Everyone falls for propaganda because frankly we think we are completely invulnerable to it.

If you try to warn people about this, they assume that you are calling them stupid- saying that they won’t know their own mind, and aren’t intelligent enough to see tricks which are actually fairly simple. Their ego gets in the way. My ego does it too, and I’ve no doubt that yours does it.

Propaganda doesn’t care how intelligent you are- it will get you regardless of your age, experience, IQ, gender, cultural identifications, or anything else.

Take the example of David Irving- a man whose work on Goebbel’s diaries is universally acclaimed for its brilliance and Historical analysis [5], but also harbours doubts about the holocaust which I and other Historians find issue with. He is wrong about the holocaust being faked, and many Historians have heavily criticised him for it. So how did such a brilliant mind fall for such gutter propaganda?

Well, he believed himself invulnerable, but also likely viewed ‘bias’ as an addition of false information, rather than an omission of true information. This is a problem which ensnares many people, but to take a simple example, if I say “don’t worry, there are no cars coming” and you step out into the road and get hit by a bus, you can see how one can omit details without having to lie in a far more effective bias than attempting to construct a web of lies.

The misconception that bias means lying, combined with our egos on propaganda is why we fall for it so easily as a society. Simply rephrasing the question as “how vulnerable am I to propaganda?” makes us realise that it is not a matter of intelligence, but a matter of general education, research, and to some degree chance, whether or not we fall for propaganda.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/sep/10/brexit-camp-abandons-350-million-pound-nhs-pledge
[2] http://openeurope.org.uk/today/blog/post-brexit-leaving-customs-union-no-brainer/
[3] https://infacts.org/front-page-corrections-needed-to-stop-press-errors/
[4] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/10-most-astonishing-u-turns-10475812
[5] http://www.fpp.co.uk/reviews/JG_Richard_Cohen.html

 

Dogma Driven Policy Making: The Big Myth Surrounding Corporation Tax

Since the 1930s when the idea of a “tax haven” (as we would understand them today) first came into being, taxation policy has broadly been adjusted under the assumption that lower corporation tax rates are how to attract investment into your country.

But do these policies actually have an evidential basis behind them? It would appear not. The broad consensus that corporation tax rates have a correlation with the level of investment (commonly phrased as “the rich people will take their money elsewhere”) appears to be built on utter fallacy. Bogus logic.

images

Nor are tax havens an inevitability, it must be said, since the two are always brought up in partnership.

Right wing commentators often like to play down the significance of the “shadow economy” that moves through offshore funds and tax havens, but with the IFS estimating in 1994 that half of cross-border lending is conducted through offshore accounts [1], it is clear that the amount of tax evasion conducted through these accounts makes it a considerable sum of money to ignore.

Although we can’t know the exact amount of assets stored in offshore accounts worldwide, because the definition of a “tax haven” is contested, it is broadly agreed that this figure is in the trillions of pounds [2]. The economist Richard Murphy estimates the figure lost through tax avoidance in the UK at about £25,000,000,000 per annum, and the amount the UK loses to tax evasion at £75,000,000,000 per annum [3]. Although this is hotly contested by HMRC figures, which put it much lower [4] it is almost universally estimated to cost the UK billions of pounds per year.

Between 2000 and 2006, Murphy conducted a study into the top 50 largest UK companies for the British Trade Union Congress, and found that they paid an average of 5% less of their profits in tax than they actually declared [5]. A small amount in percentage figures, but an absolutely staggering sum of money in real terms.

Why should we care though?

Well, to put it quite simply, the fact that companies are getting away with this is nothing short of criminal. That is money which should be going toward infrastructure projects and developing our country so that we can run our public services. Educating the next generation. It should be being invested to keep people fed and to keep our economy growing. Money put in tax havens is not flowing through the British economy, and so is wasted in every sense of its growth potential.

So why did David Cameron water down our Controlled Foreign Company (CFC) rules [6] which allowed us to tax profits which MNCs moved outside our jurisdiction as though they were still on British soil? This is encouraging tax evasion, far from being concerned about it.

And tax evasion has many other consequences beyond just being a theft from the duty which should be paid for access to our society (the taxes pay for the education and wellbeing of the workforce that these companies use, and investment in the markets that they will operate in); NT Naylor has expressed concerns that terrorist groups could be using anonymous offshore accounts and tax havens to protect their funding [7] in the same manner that the CIA have done in covert operations. It is a security concern, in every sense of the word.
An OECD report in 1998 on the harmful nature of tax competition also found that tax havens are eroding the tax basis of other (and importantly, developing) countries, distorting trade and investment patterns, eroding the fairness of the tax system, and diminishing global welfare [8]. The current trajectory of our tax system has to be stopped before it crumbles in on itself. It is not just a matter of justice for the country, but justice and security for the world. We have a duty to tackle this issue, I would argue.

oecd_logo

So again, why do Cameron and others seem to be encouraging tax evasion, and bending over backwards to please the world’s corporations demands for low taxation?
Is it perhaps, because we have little power over the most common tax havens? How can this be, when 7 of the world’s most notorious tax havens (Bermuda, The Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, Gibraltar, Turks and Caicos, Anguilla, and Montserrat [9]) are old colonies which we retain a great deal of control and influence over?

The answer lies in the common fallacy that companies invest in low taxation areas. Actually, the rate of taxation and the level of greenfield investment (genuine investment as opposed to mere dummy mergers for tax purposes, which actually bear little economic benefit to the host country) have little correlation. The truth is that they simply do not affect each other.

Investigations be Reuters, for example, found that only 13 businesses could be found to have relocated to the UK for tax purposes over the period 2010-2015, despite the corporation tax rate in the UK being relentlessly cut by the conservatives from 28% to 20% in the same period [10]. The correlation between low tax rates and the level of investment simply isn’t there.

Similarly, the faux exodus claimed by the right wing media surrounding France’s tax hikes in 2013, (which right wing ideologues have been perpetuating as though France has lost billions in potential investment [11]) have equally been found to be bogus claims [12]. The correlation is not there once again.

But what about Ireland? They have some of the lowest tax rates in Europe, and as a consequence have grown faster than most other OEDC countries, haven’t they? It is a popular myth amongst the right wingers, but once again, completely wrong. A simple look at the figures in this growth show that the investment in Ireland, and the growth it has seen, is much more to do with its language and the access it gives to European markets than its level of corporation tax [13].

It works the same way across all countries, and even in the case of tax havens, it is not necessarily those havens with the lowest regulation which receive the most interest: Sharman and Rawlings (2006) found that some of the least regulated tax havens, the Pacific atolls, were some of the least successful at attracting money to their shores, because banks, companies, and hedge funds did not want to risk attracting attention by having their names associated with disreputable, poorly managed tax havens [14]. Exploiting reputation, with this information in mind, could be a potential solution to tax evasion in years to come, and the ‘Publish what you Pay’ campaign is one way which has been suggested for us to go about the task of cracking down on tax havens [15].

Far from investment being driven by low corporation tax and deregulation, the OECD has actually stated that average income and market size, as well as skill levels, infrastructural investment levels, and macroeconomic stability are what drives businesses to invest in a country [16]. Despite the ludicrous arrogance of Boeing threatening to refuse to carry out safety checks on their aircraft if they didn’t receive adequate tax breaks [17], the threats of corporations like this, in real terms, are nothing more than lobbyist hot air. The reality is that they go where the markets are and this is unlikely to be affected by tax rates.

A 50 year study into US tax incentives which concluded in 2013, found that “there is no conclusive evidence from research studies conducted since the mid-1950s to show that business tax incentives have an impact on net economic gains… nor is there conclusive evidence from the research that taxes, in general, have an impact on business location” [18].

It can therefore be concluded with certainty that scaremongering about “rich people leaving the country due to corporation tax” is an utterly ridiculous line of argument for right wing ideologues to use, without even getting into the fact that (even if it were the case that there was a correlation between low corporate taxation and investment) the UK has one of the lowest corporation tax rates in Europe [19].

There is no truth to the bogus line of argument whatsoever.

[1] Chavagneux, C. Murphy, R. & Palan, R. Tax Havens: How Globalisation Really Works (Cornell University Press 2010), p.50
[2] Chavagneux, C. Murphy, R. & Palan, R. Tax Havens: How Globalisation Really Works (Cornell University Press 2010), pp.61-63
[3] Chavagneux, C. Murphy, R. & Palan, R. Tax Havens: How Globalisation Really Works (Cornell University Press 2010), p.66
[4] https://fullfact.org/economy/tax-avoidance-evasion-uk/
[5] Chavagneux, C. Murphy, R. & Palan, R. Tax Havens: How Globalisation Really Works (Cornell University Press 2010), p.66
[6] Christensen, J. Shaxson, N. Tax Competitiveness: A Dangerous Obsession -in- Global Tax Fairness (eds. Pogge, T. Mehta, K.) (Oxford University Press 2016), p.276
[7] Chavagneux, C. Murphy, R. & Palan, R. Tax Havens: How Globalisation Really Works (Cornell University Press 2010), p.208
[8] Chavagneux, C. Murphy, R. & Palan, R. Tax Havens: How Globalisation Really Works (Cornell University Press 2010), p.212
[9] Chavagneux, C. Murphy, R. & Palan, R. Tax Havens: How Globalisation Really Works (Cornell University Press 2010), p.124
[10] Christensen, J. Shaxson, N. Tax Competitiveness: A Dangerous Obsession -in- Global Tax Fairness (eds. Pogge, T. Mehta, K.) (Oxford University Press 2016), p.274
[11] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2292189/Two-MORE-executives-join-French-exodus-including-Moet-champagne-empire-boss.html
[12] http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2013/03/-huge-flight-of-rich-after-french-tax-hikes-nope.html
[13] http://foolsgold.international/did-irelands-12-5-percent-corporate-tax-rate-cause-the-celtic-tiger/
[14] Chavagneux, C. Murphy, R. & Palan, R. Tax Havens: How Globalisation Really Works (Cornell University Press 2010), p.160
[15] http://www.publishwhatyoupay.org/about/
[16] Christensen, J. Shaxson, N. Tax Competitiveness: A Dangerous Obsession -in- Global Tax Fairness (eds. Pogge, T. Mehta, K.) (Oxford University Press 2016), p.281
[17] Christensen, J. Shaxson, N. Tax Competitiveness: A Dangerous Obsession -in- Global Tax Fairness (eds. Pogge, T. Mehta, K.) (Oxford University Press 2016), p.267
[18] http://origin-states.politico.com.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/files/131115__Incentive_Study_Final_0.pdf
[19] https://tradingeconomics.com/country-list/corporate-tax-rate

Unelectable Terrorist Sympathizer: The Rapid Fall of Theresa May in the General Election 2017

Much to the irritation of Isobel Oakshott and other Daily Mail commenters (who are generously referred to by some as “journalists”), the Conservatives only ‘won’ the general election in the most basic and rudimentary two-dimensional sense.

Many of my left leaning friends are disappointed that Theresa May will be leading the Conservative party into government once again, but I must disagree with them. I am completely elated by the result of this election; Theresa May is finished, and every second she clings to power by the skin of her teeth only helps the conservatives to haemorrhage support.

What can I say? Two-dimensional strength will get you a two-dimensional victory. Until recently, Theresa May was polling extremely high amongst the general public [1] …until she had to face the one thing she apparently can’t deal with: scrutiny.

mayweakwobbly

It seemed to me that, for a very long time, she was able to hide how terribly feeble she was. There had always been an unsavoury authoritarian undertone to her way of doing politics, which is regarded by many international spectators as a little unsettling [2], but the calling the general election to take advantage of an apparent poll lead was seen as a particularly thuggish and authoritarian move; forcing other leaders to take part or be branded a coward and denouncing any opposition to her position as mere political agitation. The satire website NewsThump declared it was a “Snap Annihilation of the Labour Party” [3], and it was difficult for most people to view it many other ways at the time. A consolidation of power.

In particular, Theresa May wanted to take advantage of Brexit populism, by taking a hard right stance on the issue, and hoping that the vote would flow to her. For months she has been declaring that she has a mandate for this form of Brexit (despite no such mandate existing), and showed a remarkably poor understanding of democracy.

What she invoked was majoritarianism- which is often confused with being the definition of democracy, but is actually only a single (and rather basic) interpretation [4]. The majoritarian move to ignore the concerns and wishes of the 48% entirely, not only shows a poor understanding of democracy for a Prime Minister, but also puts the very unity of the United Kingdom at risk, in the hopes of claiming Brexit populism for her own gain.

It is fair to say, I think, that her poor understanding backfired.

Despite her feeble understanding, she is also overly brazen and extremely lacking in subtlety. The declarations of “strength and stability” simply had no weight to them within a few weeks of her campaign launch. On Europe, in particular, she has taken the stance of a hardline Brexiteer and tried to bulldoze a hard Brexit through the country, against the advice of the overwhelming majority of expert opinion [5] [6] [14].

And she wonders why she was met with resistance?

But more than that, her understanding of negotiating is so incredibly poor. As a student who is required to study international politics, I was stunned by how blatantly she must be ignoring the expert advice around her. Beginning Brexit negotiations by threatening to walk away with nothing [7] is a shallow understanding of these negotiation at absolute best. The EU are not stupid- they know that we need a trade deal, and they will know that it is ridiculous to suggest that we walk away without one, but Theresa May still feels the need to threaten Europe with a bluff that will be viewed as ignorant and impolite.

In many ways, I have to wonder if she began to believe her own monotonous rhetoric? Did she honestly think that she was half as strong and stable as the papers were declaring she was? I think there is a good chance she got swept up in her own propaganda.

The reality is that May was robotic and shallow at every single turn [8]. I had been uncertain on my views on her in the past- I thought I was perhaps being overly critical- but now I can say with certainty that she always was a terrible leader with a media screen to protect her. Conservative friends of mine called for her resignation and thought she would resign on the night, but predictably, she was her old authoritarian self. To my delight, she clung onto power like a cement block clinging to the leg of the conservative party.

This election was also dubbed “The Brexit Election” and Theresa May declared that the objective was to “put forward our plans for Brexit and our alternative programmes for government and then let the people decide” [9].
It appears that the people decided; they chose to reject Theresa May’s hard Brexit, and her mandate for pursuing it has effectively been destroyed. However, if you believe this will stop her pursuing a hard Brexit, I would gently suggest that you don’t understand Theresa May’s nature.

Many far right Brexiteers will declare that Brexit was only mentioned in passing, and this cannot be taken as a rejection of a far right hard Brexit, but humour me:- can you imagine what Brexiteers would be saying if Theresa May had won a larger majority?
They would claim it as an utterly indisputable mandate.
Why should the same standards not apply?
The shaky basis upon which May declared she had a mandate just sunk like a rock in the ocean of reality.

But perhaps best of all, the world underestimated Jeremy Corbyn once again. Less than two months ago, even his allies were declaring that the party was ‘doomed’ under Corbyn, and that his leadership would spell the end of the party itself [10] [11] [12] [13]. And I have no intention of letting his critics forget this.

The criticism of Jeremy Corbyn went much too far, and was propped up by the considerable efforts which the media have (now undeniably) gone to in order to project this image of Corbyn as “unelectable” [15], which is of course nonsense: no politician is inherently ‘unelectable’ due to their position. If it were so, we would be hearing how ‘unelectable’ Nigel Farage was due to his extreme right wing views, but we simply do not.

Politics is about persuasion, not adjusting your morals to suit the public mood, even if your views are considered radical, which, despite the constant “comrade Corbyn” rhetoric [16] is not true of Corbyn; his policies are both popular here in the UK [17] and considered mainstream elsewhere in the world [18].

Corbyn

However, it is now even better that all of the “Corbyn is a terrorist sympathizer” rhetoric has fallen flat on its face. I have always attempted to ridicule this logic- negotiating with a group does not imply sympathy. No one has yet declared Neville Chamberlain to be a Nazi sympathizer for negotiating with Hitler in 1938. It is a ridiculous leap in logic to use- a leap in logic which has come back to eat its now hypocritical proponents since 8th June.

Unlike others, I do not actually believe that the DUP are terrorist sympathizers, but I do recognise that by the standards set by Corbyn’s critics in condemning him as a “terrorist sympathizer”, they are terrorist sympathizers. It is simply undeniable. The right wing have laid a logical pitfall trap and fallen right inside it in the course of their election campaign.

You see, just as much of Sinn Fein had been imprisoned prior to August 1994 for their involvement with the IRA [19], so the DUP was heavily involved with groups such as the Ulster Resistance during the 1980s, and has led to the DUP being regarded as extreme even by other unionist groups such as the UUP [20].

In particular, it’s longstanding ‘official’ rejection of, but continued association with, the paramilitary Ulster defence association (UDA) has landed it in difficulty, particularly given that the UDA was known for randomly targeting catholic civilians in campaigns of brutal murder in “retaliation” for IRA killings [21] which those civilians had no part in. The UDA’s Tommy Herron had also declared war on the British Army (despite supposedly being on the same side in the conflict) a number of times [24] during the troubles.

Just last month, DUP leader Arlene Foster met with UDA leader Jackie McDonald, despite the murder of Colin Horner in front of his 3 year old son just days before, which has been attributed to the activities of the UDA [22]. The DUP are opposed to gay marriage, family, planning, and the peace agreement in Northern Ireland; when it was proposed, the DUP refused to participate and declared they would not “negotiate with terrorists” [23] (despite the fact that there were sectarian paramilitary groups such as the UVF and UDA on their side too).

Forming a government with the DUP may well put the Good Friday Agreement at risk, and I suspect that Theresa May knows this, but she will do it anyway. She will cling on to power.

Make no mistake; the DUP are extremists, and by the same standards that Jeremy Corbyn is a “terrorist sympathizer”, they would also be considered terrorist associates.
Theresa May was so desperate for a mandate that she has gone into coalition with those people.
Many conservatives will have to do logical acrobatics in order to justify this to themselves, and my generation should take heart- because of us, and the allies we have from all age groups who I am immensely proud of, Theresa May is struggling to cling onto power, and has been caught in a snare of her own making.
An unelectable terrorist sympathizer.

[1] www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2017/06/daily-chart-3
[2] http://edition.cnn.com/2017/04/19/opinions/theresa-may-authoritarian-maltby-opinion/index.html
[3] http://newsthump.com/2017/04/18/theresa-may-announces-snap-annihilation-of-the-labour-party/
[4] www.bu.edu/law/journals-archives/bulr/documents/macedo.pdf
[5] http://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/brexit01.pdf
[6] http://www.open-britain.co.uk/the_brexit_cliff_edge_by_ian_dunt
[7] http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/brexit/2017/06/08/unpicking-the-no-deal-is-better-than-a-bad-deal-mantra-what-would-a-bad-deal-look-like/
[8] www.economist.com/blogs/bagehot/2017/06/road-disaster
[9] www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-39630009
[10]  http://labour-uncut.co.uk/2017/04/20/corbyn-has-doomed-labour-time-to-vote-tactically-for-the-strongest-opposition-to-brexit/
[11] www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4121088/Corbyn-doomed-electoral-failure-doesn-t-watch-Mrs-Brown-s-Boys-says-Labour-MP-Stella-Creasy.html
[12] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/david-miliband-savages-jeremy-corbyn-and-his-own-brother-too-a7321531.html
[13] https://inews.co.uk/essentials/news/politics/nicola-sturgeon-launches-withering-attack-unelectable-jeremy-corbyn/
[14] https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/exiting-the-european-union-committee/news-parliament-2015/brexit-white-paper-report-published-16-17/
[15] www.lse.ac.uk/media@lse/research/pdf/JeremyCorbyn/Corbyn-Report-FINAL.pdf
[16] www.express.co.uk/news/politics/593968/Corbyn-admits-Karl-Marx-my-communist-hero/
[17] www.indpendent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-policy-blitz-poll-supported-by-majority-of-british-public-a7685016.html
[18] www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/7-radical-policies-draft-labour-10401191
[19] McKearney, T. The Provsional IRA: From Insurrection to Parliament (Pluto Press 2011), p.175, p.187
[20] Cox, M. Guelke, A. & Stephen, F. A Farewell to Arms? Beyond the Good Friday Agreement (Manchester University Press 2006), p.78
[21] Fay, MT. Morrissey, M. & Smyth, M. Northern Ireland’s Troubles: The Human Costs (Pluto Press 1999), p.60
[22] www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/general-election-2017/DUP-chief-arlene-foster-met-UDA-boss-days-after-loyalist-murder-in-bangor-35776873.html
[23] Fay, MT. Morrissey, M. & Smyth, M. Northern Ireland’s Troubles: The Human Costs (Pluto Press 1999), pp.64-65
[24] Dillon, M. Lehane, D. Political Murder in Northern Ireland (Penguin Books 1973), p.265

Hard Truths About Immigration:How Brexit Voters were Duped.

So often now, you hear politicians utter those infuriating words, “addressing people’s concerns about immigration” without any thought as to their actual effect. It seems to me that so rarely are these “genuine concerns” backed up by educated opinion, that it is tantamount to an excuse for xenophobia.

When, in History, has popular public opinion ever been “concerned” about immigration in times of economic success? Do the public ever go out of their way in “boom years” to demand that politicians address their “genuine concerns” about immigration?

Of course not, because it is a reflex reaction of the most rudimentary kind to blame immigrants for a problem at any point in History. It makes not a shred of difference to this knee jerk reaction that UCL found in 2014 that EU migrants contribute an annual average of £20 billion per year more into the UK tax system than they take out of it.

My official position on immigration in recent years has been this: that the present day is the wrong time to discuss the issue of immigration because economic disparity places us at an approximately equal logical disparity- we are too emotionally involved. But now, with the far right being so stringent that they can influence government to demand that companies draw up lists of foreign workers, I feel I have to step forward and oppose this ultimate stupidity.

Pandering to the far right has never been in our interests and- so far from mitigating damage, often increases the impact and reach of people who can only be described as fanatical. Look at our current situation: Donald Trump with his hand on the nuclear button, and members of the new American government describing Michelle Obama as an “ape”! An 89% increase in hate crimes in the US. And the British public is fast heading that way.

I do not believe for a moment that the average person who considers him/herself “concerned about immigration” is actually a racist or even terribly xenophobic, but very slowly, the media is pushing the British public in that direction.

A certain newspaper named the Daily Mail is particularly responsible for the rise in nationalistic fervour which borders on the xenophobic in this post-Brexit climate. The newspaper in question almost satirized itself a few weeks ago by stating as a headline “ANARCHISTS FLY MIGRANT IN ON RYANAIR”, as though stating that anyone who lets a foreigner into the UK (just the one, as well) desires that Britain should descend into anarchy: that the very government of the United Kingdom would fall, if Pedro the European migrant were to make it past border controls.

It’s all too easy to mock these bizarre beliefs, but they must also be countered and exposed for the lies that they are. A rational truth which still not everyone believes about the Brexit issue is that it never had anything to do with immigration.

Here is a brutal truth for the Anti-immigration Brexiteer lobby among you: you’ve been tricked. Reducing the number of immigrants coming into the UK was simply never an option in the European referendum.

Inside the European Union, as you know, we would have had free movement of peoples- not to be confused with being borderless, as the Schengen countries are. Outside the EU, however, there remains three basic options open to us: the EFTA model (Switzerland model), the EEA model (the Icelandic and Norwegian model), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) model.
The EFTA and EEA models work on the principle of abiding by European Union regulations in their majority- essentially, free movement is almost a given if we want to adopt either of these two models.

But, I hear the leave campaigners triumphantly blurt, the WTO model means that we can control our own borders, and Theresa May has chosen a hard Brexit that will allow us to do this!

And this is true- to a limited degree. Theresa May has given the go ahead for a Hard Brexit.

But Hard Brexit may not give off quite the result you were hoping for: the most popular alternative system among people who know almost nothing about immigration beyond the fact that they are opposed to it, is the Australian points based style system.

The PBS has always been seen as the most popular, and indeed, the only other popular alternative to free movement- probably because of its supposedly meritocratic nature. It seems to float the far right boat (or rather, sink the refugee’s dingy, which seems to be an even more arousing concept to the far right) to bring up the PBS system in every single debate on this issue.

However, quell your excitement at the thought of stopping those anarchists bringing their foreign friend Fernando into the UK: it is not about to reduce the numbers of people coming into the UK.

Conservative peer Lord Green did a study in 2011 looking into the nature of the Points Based System in Australia and it’s applicability to modern day Britain, and concluded that the PBS would actually make immigration three times higher than it would be in a system of free movement.

A likely explanation for this is that the Australian system, from a teleological point of view, is remarkably different from our own: to state that this is a system that can be applied to British immigration is simply failing to appreciate how different the two systems are. They are as different in their goals as Boris Johnson’s faces before and after the referendum.

The basic point, however, remains: even if you felt that immigration was undesirable for the UK, the move for Brexit has done nothing to help your situation. Far from reducing the number of people migrating into the UK, you may well have just unwittingly voted to increase it. The leave campaigners sold you a Styrofoam woggle made of reinforced steel, and you jumped into the water without question, and carried your misguided views right to the bottom of the water with you.

Immigration is a fact of the modern world- an occurrence as natural as the weather. The only sensible response is to reinforce our system to manage it: just as one would reinforce a building against Tornadoes and Earthquakes depending upon their region of residency. The tax system should always be adaptable: in theory, the more people the tax system gets in, the more it grows with each contribution, and so it is expanded to accommodate more and more people. It should, in other words, be self-sustaining.

People who insist that we cannot take anymore immigrants- or indeed, refugees- and ask us to address their “genuine concerns” about immigration, are the madmen lurching towards the tornado and endeavouring to drive it away from their house by sucking it up with a cordless hoover.

Who was Saddam Hussein?

**Warning: The following post contains descriptions of horrors which are unsuitable for those under the age of 18. Please do not read if you are either under 18 or likely to be shocked/ haunted by graphic descriptions and images**

I have studied many dictators in  a lot of depth- and I do not state lightly that I think that Saddam Hussein might be the worst dictator in history. If he is not the worst, then he should be considered among the worst tyrants of all time.

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Why do I feel the need to write an article explaining exactly just who Saddam Hussein was? Well, because far too many people on both the left and the right, now see Saddam Hussein as “the good guy” or, in some ways worse, they state that Saddam was “Okay, a bad guy…” or “Yeah, we know he was a bad guy…” I have found that this statement is akin to the “I’m not racist but…” phrase. Nothing that follows can usually be of any good, but is rather a naive and misguided attempt at justifying the unjustifiable.

Just a week ago, Donald Trump praised Saddam Hussein for his ability to kill terrorists (implying that the fact that Saddam’s courtrooms had no serious regard for human rights was a good thing), and preferenced his statement with the “a really bad guy” description [1]. But for once, Trump was not alone in his praise of Saddam Hussein; too often now, I hear people from the far right to the far left acting like Saddam Hussein was the hero of a sordid tale.

While I’ve no intention of registering any support for the 2003 Iraq war, it is simply foolish to claim that Saddam was a hero trying to protect his people. I’m told all too often that Saddam had to rule his country with “an iron fist”, lest the country descend into chaos. They see it as unthinkable that Iraq could possibly be controlled by anyone but a vicious tyrant. I hardly need to tell you that these people often have no idea who Saddam Hussein was, or the horrors which the Iraqi people endured at his hands.

But how insulting to the people of Iraq! Telling them that “you are too barbaric and backwards to build a democratic society!” How can people do this?
And before people start telling me that “most people get that he was a bad guy” or “people know how bad Saddam was”, look in the comments section of a YouTube video about Saddam Hussein. So often, you won’t fail to find a whole host of people declaring that Saddam was a hero [2] [3] [4].

If you like, this is why I wrote this article: to make it clear that Saddam Hussein was a brutal Ba’athist dictator, with utter contempt for human rights and the life of people in Iraq. If you are opposed to the politics of Hitler’s Germany in the 1930s, then it seems to me that you are required to be opposed to the politics of Saddam Hussein.

Understand who this man was, truly understand who he was, and you will realise how utterly contemptible it is to relativize support for Saddam Hussein.

Ba’athism

To understand who Saddam was, it is important to understand the political party which he ruled in Iraq, and the politics he held to. Anyone who is on the left and can seriously say that they would recommend supporting a Ba’athist regime, simply doesn’t understand what Ba’athism is.

Ba’athism can be thought of as a form of Arabic Naziism, although the former is older than the latter, Naziism had a heavy impact on Ba’athism as it began to grow and spread. The Ba’ath party was first formed in Syria when it was a French colony in the 1930s. The Ba’athists were national socialists at first, seeking to remove western influence, but also communist influence, and restore Arabic nations based on racial supremacy and other Nazi ideas.

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Saddam’s propaganda “leading his people” to Jeruselum

In 1941, the Ba’athists rallied to support the pro-Hitler coup against the (British influenced) Iraqi monarchy, organized by Rashid Ali al-Kailani. And although unsuccessful, the Ba’ath party did remain the dominant fascist political force in the region.

 In Iraq, it took off more than anywhere else: in order to become a full member of the Ba’ath party, people would have to go through a series of vigorous tests and four stages of initial membership. During Saddam’s reign, the people who progressed most in the party were those who showed the most fanatic loyalty to their leader. You can imagine, then, how Saddam became the commander of an insane army of fanatically loyal zealots.
The Ba’athists took control of Syria in 1963 (and they still hold it to this day) and secured their hold of Iraq in 1968 [5].

But what of Saddam Hussein himself?

Saddam was born in 1937 in the Iraqi town of Tikrit (تكريت‎‎) to a mother who didn’t want him, and tried to commit suicide several times.
His Uncle, Khairallah Talfah (خير الله طلفاح) took care of the young Saddam, and taught him to be suspicious of outsiders, and bestowed upon him a belief in many of the tenets of Iraqi Nationalism. A hatred of Persians and Jewish people was taught to him by his saviour in the form of Talfah, until Talfah was imprisoned for his radical politics [6].

Saddam was then placed back into the care of his mother, who allowed his stepfather to beat him, and abuse him, in a way reminiscent of the manner in which Stalin was abused in his childhood.
When Saddam was ten years old, he returned to the freed Talfah, who gave him his first gun.

No one has ever been able to prove it, but it is broadly agreed that Saddam’s first victim was shot by the boy shortly afterwards [7], and Talfah then sheltered him from the authorities.

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In 1957, at the age of 20 Saddam joined the Ba’ath party as a contract killer. In 1964, Saddam was arrested with his cousin, Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, for opposing the government at the time, and from inside prison, Ahmed and Saddam planned their takeover of Iraq. While he was there, Saddam also began to study his hero- a man who he idolized despite the Ba’ath party’s founders hating communism so much:- the dictator Josef Stalin.

Saddam idolized Stalin, from the employment of terror to gain and maintain control, to his moustache, which was a replica of Stalin’s own, Saddam attempted to mimic his dictatorial role model.  In 1968, their plan finally succeeded and al-Bakr became the President of Iraq, putting Saddam in charge of the Mukhabarat (the Iraqi secret police). So often I am told “Saddam couldn’t have been Stalinist and a Nazi”, but this fails to take into account that the Ba’ath party actually allied themselves with the communist party in the 1960s, and that Saddam never actually declared any support for communism, but rather, for the brutal terror tactics of control used by Josef Stalin.

Like the Nazi’s before them, the Ba’athist government made one of their primary victims the Jewish people. After 1963, in a show of power mimicking that of the Nazis, all Jewish Iraqis were required by law to carry yellow identification badges, and were banned from commerce, had their bank accounts frozen, and the new regime’s first public executions were a group of 14 “traitors”, 11 of whom were Jewish, hanged in the centre of Baghdad.

Using the fear of Israel, and Nazi-esque anti-Jewish sentiment, Saddam secured his hold over the people of Iraq [10]. However, Saddam and the Ba’athists also had another people whom they were trying to obliterate from the region; the Kurdish people. There is absolutely no doubt that Saddam Hussein wanted to commit genocide against the Kurdish people, and see them extinct from Iraq forever.

Saddam brought to the secret police a new level of horror heavily influenced by Stalin- one in which the families of the torture victims were used to torture them further. Some might say that Stalin wasn’t even as bad as that- Stalin never liked to get his hands dirty, but Saddam seemed to enjoy it, and entered the world of torture as a self-proclaimed expert.

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Abdul Rasul al-Hayder, who was a torture victim sentenced to death, described how a colleague of his was taken to the torture chamber, accused of being affiliated with an Islamic political party in opposition to the Ba’ath party, and his wife was brought before him with his infant son, and he was forced to watch while she was raped twice by the guards, tortured. The colleague’s infant son was then thrown head first against the wall by the guards until he was dead, and the colleague himself was shot. His wife was allowed to go free, but only so that she could keep the terror alive- keep the rumours about the horrors of the regime’s torture chambers going. To keep the Iraqi people in line.

This was what it meant to live in Saddam’s Iraq. Can you honestly imagine, even for a moment, what it might be like to live in such a place? And if so, can you honestly tell me that you would be willing to let other human beings suffer in such a place?

Saddam finally took power in July 1979 by forcing al-Bakr to give up his presidency, and ordered a meeting of 400 members of the Ba’ath party elite. He then announced that he had uncovered a plot conducted by rival Ba’athists, and all of the conspirators could be found somewhere amongst the 400 people.
If you watch the footage, which can be found very easily on YouTube [8] (and if you want to see something really terrifying, look how many comments there are under that video praising Saddam as a “hero”) you can see Saddam sitting at the head of the conference, and a man is brought in- tortured and broken, but the man has been promised his life in return for his cooperation. While Saddam sits there smiling and smoking a cigar, he reads out a list of all the 400 people gathered in that room, and asks after each one; “is he a conspirator?”

If the answer is yes, then the person is grabbed by the Mukhabarat and dragged outside. Imagine what it might have been like to be in that room- to have to wait in the agonizing fear, just waiting for your name to be read out, and wondering if this might be the last day of your life. Some in the room couldn’t take it, and you can see them cracking- they stand up and start yelling “Glory to Saddam” and similar phrases, praising him in desperation, hoping that their name would not be read out.

No such plot existed, or has ever been proven to exist, but this was but another example of Saddam following Stalin’s lead- randomly slaughtering half of the political elite, simply because he could. The message was clear: the leader will kill you without a reason, so stay in line, shut up, be obedient, and don’t question him; that way you won’t give him a reason to kill you.

And then, once all the “conspirators” had been removed, Saddam once again addressed the remains of the room, and thanked them for their loyalty. Saddam said that as a reward, they would get to shoot their colleagues the following morning.
Many people have pointed out that this was a measure which even Stalin hadn’t thought of- binding the country’s remaining leaders to him by making them commit murder in his name. The fact they were shooting close colleagues and friends would serve as a constant reminder of what happened in Saddam’s Iraq if you upset the leader in any way, haunting them for the rest of their lives.

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Saddam then really begins to build his cult of personality, with giant statues of himself being built across Iraq, and films being made about his early exploits. Through the ministry of culture and information [9], Saddam’s Ba’ath party maintained such a tight control over the media that even the type writers and computers had to be checked by party officials before use. Owning a Satellite dish or mobile telephone in Iraq under Saddam’s rule was punishable by death. All of this, to maintain total control over a tortured and terrified Iraqi people.

Hazim Oraha [11] was a young gallery owner accused of sponsoring anti-Ba’athist art when Saddam took power, and was sent to the torture chamber by Saddam’s secret police the Mukhabarat (or Jihaz Al-Mukhabarat Al-Amma).
Oraha was severely beaten and shocked with electricity, before his hands were bound behind his back and he was suspended from a rotating ceiling fan. His tormentors then grabbed him by the legs and held him still, letting the ceiling fan turn until his back was twisted round until it gave way and his back finally broke.

Oraha was then left paralyzed on the floor of his cell for 2 months before he could walk and was freed from the prison. Inside the prisons, prisoners were often forced to watch executions- which could range from affairs involving boiling oil, electricity, and acid, to a slow hanging.

One Iraqi prisoner recalled:
“inmates were sometimes murdered by being dropped into shredding machines. Some prisoners went in headfirst and died quickly, while others were put in feet first and died screaming. The witness said that on at least one occasion, Qusai [Qusay] supervised shredding-machine murders.” [12]

If they cried, they were immediately executed in the same manner as the execution that they were watching. Many Iraqi prisoners can also tell stories of the “games” that the guards would play in Baghdad’s prisons, such as forcing prisoners to drink petrol, and then firing guns at them. So often in these prisons, routine patterns were noticed, like the guards offering a choice of four electric cables when the prisoners first entered, then whipping them with their chosen cable until they bled, before making them swim in sewer water that was knee deep for the amusement of the guards.
One ex-prisoner stated in his recall of life in the Ba’athist prisons:

“Then they put me inside a circle and told me to run round and round for nine hours. After that they threw me on the hot pavement and a fat guard sat on my chest. Then they pulled me along by my ankles so that my back was streaming with blood.”  [12]

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A standard Iraqi Prison cell under the Ba’athist regime

One of the most shocking things about Iraq, was that at every level of Iraqi society, people could be found who could tell sordid tales of the brutalities which they or their friends endured at the hands of the Ba’ath party:
“When I was in Iraq a doctor from Basra told me that, after being jailed by the police some years ago, he refused to tell his inquisitors whatever it was they wanted to hear. Instead of beating him, he told me, they brought in his 3-month-old daughter. The interrogator tore the screaming infant’s eye out. When the desired answers were still not forthcoming, the questioner hurled the little girl against the concrete wall and smashed her skull.” [13]

Dr. Hussein Shahristani was ordered by Saddam in 1979 to build nuclear devices for military use. When he refused, Dr.Shahristani was sent to the torture chambers for 22 days and nights, until, in his own words “I was completely paralyzed.”

 Under normal circumstances, refusing a direct order from the president was a crime that could result in electric drills being pushed up against the bones until the tip of the drill carved its way through the bone and appeared on the other side of the body, or submerging body parts in sulphuric acid until they burned away.

But Saddam could not risk Iraq’s top nuclear scientist, so instead, he was hung from the ceiling by his hands and electrocuted with high voltage probes, and then beaten (with only minutes to rest between sessions) for 22 days, to the point of paralysis. [20] Shahristani was kept with the other prisoners, whom he described as having been tortured in even more brutal ways: fingers removed with electric saws and private parts burnt away with fire. This was a mere glimpse at the reality of horror that was Saddam’s Iraq.

In 1982, Saddam carried out his infamous “Dujail” massacre. The story from the courtroom at the trial of Saddam [21] states that the leader was visiting the village as a photo opportunity, when a Shiite group (an oppressed majority in Iraq under the Ba’ath party) attempted to shoot Saddam. They failed, but even though there were only two shooters, Saddam executed 145 people from Dujail, including an 11 year old boy.

During the 1980s, the situation was vastly complicated when Saddam invaded neighbouring Iran, hoping to expand his power. In 1983, the invasion came to a stalemate when Iran constructed a massive counter force to repel Saddam’s attack. When Saddam called an emergency meeting of his government, he asked, under his breath, if he should resign. His health minister replied “Yes.”

So, Saddam had him arrested there, and that evening, the health minister’s wife came to Saddam and pleaded him to please return her husband to her. She said that he had always been a loyal servant of Saddam’s Ba’ath party, and that he could continue to serve if he was returned to her. So Saddam agreed. Shortly afterwards, she received a black canvas bag, with the carved up pieces of her husband inside it. Such stories are surprisingly commonplace among survivors of Saddam’s brutal regime.

The stalemate ended shortly afterwards, when Reagan, Thatcher, and Andreotti (Italian PM) began funding the Iraqi military. It was felt that Saddam’s staunch anti-communism (despite his admiration of Stalin, Saddam viewed the post-Khrushchev soviet union as a communist abomination- the direct opposite of his own political views) would be of great help to US interests in the middle east. But they didn’t just supply him with conventional weaponry- they also put chemical weapons in the hands of the Iraqi dictator. His first taste of WMD [14].

They used Mustard gas and a cocktail of nerve agents against the Iranians. Saddam even had the weapons modified to make them more dangerous. In eight years, Saddam’s attempts to dominate Iran claimed 2 million lives and only ended once the subsequent Iranian nationalist counter attack, that he had unwittingly unleashed, agreed to a ceasefire under UN resolution 598. The Iraqi people were essentially defeated, but nonetheless, the insane dictator hailed it as a victory, and built the massive “arc of triumph” which can still be seen in Baghdad today, in celebration of the leader’s great victory.

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The leader’s “arc of triumph” celebrating his victory against Iran, which was constructed in Baghdad after the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.


Then, Saddam’s wrath turned on the Kurdish people living in Northern Iraq, conducting an operation known as the Anfal campaign, to slaughter Kurdish men, women, and children. In March 1988, Saddam attacked Halabja [15] with his new chemical weapons, and in just three days, five thousand people were killed by the chemical weapons while still in their homes, with thousands of the survivors bearing horrific scars, even mutations in their skin cells, as a result of that single assault.

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One of the most famous images of the Halabja slaughter- a father and his child killed by chemical weapons where they 

Many have compared the Anfal campaign to Hitler’s persecution of the Jews- it was Saddam’s “final solution” to the Kurdish people. It is estimated that at least 100,000 people were killed by the Anfal campaign in the Northern provinces of Iraq, with stories of Iraqi Kurds being buried alive in mass graves [16].

When Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1991, he tried to continue his holocaust against the Kurdish people, but the US were not on side with Saddam this time- US forces repelled Saddam from Kuwait, and a no fly zone was authorised by the UN to prevent genocide in Northern Iraq or Kuwait. In a speech following this, the insane dictator is claimed to have said that the only mistake he ever made was to invade Kuwait before he’d finished making a nuclear weapon [17].

Saddam had an interpreter named Mazen al-Zahawi, who was at the side of Saddam when the invasion of Kuwait was in its final stages, and Saddam was approached by foreign leaders, who ordered Saddam to withdraw from Iraq, many of them speaking to Saddam rather angrily, and in tones that no Iraqi would ever dare to speak to the President in. They threatened him with war, and Saddam, who had violated countless UN resolutions to invade Kuwait, was forced to sit there and take it, since he could not risk a full scale invasion of Iraq by a foreign power, let alone all of the western countries who now opposed him.

Unfortunately, al-Zahawi was there to witness this, and Saddam, the “great” leader, couldn’t have a witness to anyone speaking down to him. (Saddam thought so highly of himself that, at his trial after the invasion in 2003, he claimed that he was too great to be judged; “Even Saddam Hussein cannot be judged by Saddam Hussein!”) Zahawi could not be allowed to live after seeing someone speak down to Saddam Hussein. He was accused of being homosexual, so Saddam’s guards dragged him into a dungeon, where he was not just executed, but literally pulled apart [18].

The only people more dangerous than Saddam himself were his two sons, Uday Hussein and Qusay Hussein. Uday was born in 1964, and was taught from an early age to be ruthless. Saddam would take him and his younger brother Qusay (born in 1966) to the prisons when they were very young, and order them to shoot prisoners.

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Uday Hussein (Left) and Saddam Hussein (Right)

Uday quickly learned, and his first position was as head of the Iraqi Olympics committee. There, he tortured the athletes if they failed to perform well for him. He seemed to enjoy asking them what place they would come in a competition, and then having them whipped in front of their teammates until the skin of their back broke if they got it wrong.

Athletes who failed him often had their heads shaved (a huge dishonour and humiliation in Arabic culture) or were sealed inside a metal coffin to burn in the hot Iraqi sun. Uday would state to the athletes that unless they won the important games, he would have them killed, and all of their family inside Iraq would be executed.
It was not an idle threat. At least 50 athletes had this very punishment inflicted on them by Uday.

Latif Yahia, one of Uday’s body doubles payed to act as a decoy, described Uday as completely sick- he would regularly beat his bodyguards and Yahia with an “electric stick” (similar to an electric shock baton) for no apparent reason. Among the other things he witnessed, Yahia claims that one incident he was particularly horrified by was a time that Uday went to book into a hotel, and saw a married couple. Uday took an interest in the wife, and sent his thugs after them. The husband was beaten by Uday’s guards, while Uday raped the wife. According to Yahia, she committed suicide by jumping from the top floor of the hotel.

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One of Uday’s favourite punishments was to have his victim’s feet held up between two sticks, back on the ground, and then Uday or one of his guards would take a baseball bat (contrary to the traditional punishment of whipping in such a position) and hit the feet of their victim until the feet were broken. Usually after this, Uday would have the victim beaten with electric cables as they dangled upside down from the ceiling. He seemed to take sadistic pleasure from his outlandish, psychopathic, bullying nature.

Uday would move from College to College, and at each location, he had a reputation for choosing the most attractive girl, and then having Ba’athist thugs hold her down while he raped her, and then have her executed [19].

But the elder of the two brothers proved even too psychopathic for Saddam’s Iraq; in 1988, he murdered a personal friend of Saddam Hussein in a drunken brawl by slashing a German made “flower picker” (essentially a stick with a pair of scissors at one end) across the neck of Hanna Jajou. Saddam had Uday arrested along with his friends, and sentenced him to execution, but after a time, relents, and exiles him to Switzerland for a year instead.

When Uday returns, he has learnt nothing, and he continues to rape and murder his way across the Iraqi population with such brutality that he was creating countless enemies for the Ba’athists inside Iraq. So much so, that in 1996, Uday was on his way to a party in Baghdad, when he was shot eight times by an assassin, aiming to rid the people of the insane dauphin.

Uday survived the assassination attempt, although partially paralysed from the waist down, but Saddam felt that this was the last straw for Uday. Uday had become an embarrassment, and the Iraqi people were beginning to turn against the Ba’athists because of their brutality, and the regime needed to calm the public mood, particularly as UN sanctions came into place, and Iraqi children starved, while Saddam continued to build palaces for his family.

Not overplaying his hand when it came to cruelty, and instead adapting subtlety to keep the Iraqi people in line, was not, in Saddam’s mind, something that the blunt instrument of psychopathic mass murder that was Uday Hussein was any longer capable of.

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Uday the thug, reduced to a hospital bed after an assassination attempt.

So, Saddam named Qusay his successor, as Uday lay in his hospital bed. Qusay was by far the more intelligent of the two- quieter, although just as brutal as Uday, the younger brother didn’t kill without reason, and was not the random unpredictable force that Saddam saw Uday as. Qusay idolized his father, and adopted the familiar Stalin-esque moustache. Saddam placed him as the head of the secret police and security services, and began the process of grooming Qusay to be the next despotic mass murderer at the head of Iraqi government.

Uday did not take it well. To keep himself in power, Uday became the head of the Fedayeen Saddam- the Ba’athist militia which has been compared to the Hitler youth, but I feel might more accurately be compared to the Sturm Abteilung (SA) of the early Nazi years; a militia with tens of thousands of members designed to act as an unofficial machine of brutality for their fascist party. For exaple, in 2003, when the Fedayeen Saddam were given a list of 200 women “dissidents” who had spoken out for female rights in Saddam’s Iraq. And so, the Fedayeen marched into their villages and brutally beheaded each of them, one by one. [22] When Uday had received this position, his brutality continued, largely unchanged.

Uday’s personal executioner, Ahmad, revealed horrifying stories after the death of his former boss [12] which included a time that the Ba’ath party had ordered him to arrest two young students in Baghdad’s arts academy (he estimates that they were no older than 19) and with no explanation, two lions belonging to Uday were brought to the scene, and the two students were fed to the lions. Ahmad, who was a seasoned killer himself and no soft hearted man, recalled in horror at how he “saw the head of the first student literally come off his body with the first bite.”

On another occasion, Ahmad recalled how he was forced to behead a pregnant woman while she sobbed and begged for the life of her child. The cruelty of Saddam’s Iraq, and indeed Saddam’s sons, knew no bounds.

The reason that I recall these tales of horror from Saddam’s Iraq is not to shock or scare, but because I am genuinely worried that people think that Saddam Hussein was a just and fair ruler with a “tough but fair” attitude. He was nothing less than an insane dictator who saw himself as something more than human, as a godly image to be worshiped. Some in Iraq even tell tales of pictures of the “great leader” being damaged in Cafés, and the “offender” being carried away by the secret police for defiling a picture of the leader.

The cruelty of Saddam Hussein knew no bounds, and should never be forgotten. So the next time you see that disgraceful image of Saddam Hussein with “Miss me yet?” written across the top, take a second to remember which side Saddam Hussein was on. Michael Moore in his film “Faranheit 9/11” never once mentions the cruelty imposed by Saddam upon the people of Iraq, and you might even get the impression that Saddam was a quiet, fair ruler from that film and many other Western sources relating to the Iraq war.

I am not saying by any stretch that the Iraq war and the chaos that has followed was a good thing, but the cruelty of Saddam Hussein must be neither underestimated nor forgotten. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind, that Saddam Hussein will go down as one of the worst tyrant’s in history, and the people who state that he was a just and fair ruler, will be looked back on (perhaps unfairly in many cases where people simply do not know the above) in the same manner and join this “great leader” in the fascist moral sewers of history.

References

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/06/us/politics/donald-trump-saddam-hussein.html?_r=0
[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nPefUU_p1g
[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iUGeYhTMXo
[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-z_8WiScUUw
[5] http://www.eretzyisroel.org/~jkatz/baath.html
[6] http://www.eretzyisroel.org/~jkatz/saddam.html
[7] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1538254/Saddam-Hussein.html
[8] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLUktJbp2Ug
[9] http://www.psywarrior.com/iraqprop.html
[10] http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/anti-semitism/iraqijews.html
[11] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUothgIi8cg
[12] https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2003/09/20030929-14.html
[13] http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/1163805/posts
[14] http://www.counterpunch.org/2004/06/17/how-reagan-armed-saddam-with-chemical-weapons/
[15] http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/march/16/newsid_4304000/4304853.stm
[16] https://www.hrw.org/reports/1993/iraqanfal/
[17] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngjQs_QjSwc
[18] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTti3qrju5s
[19] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HNXcrhCIRg
[20] http://www.irishtimes.com/news/two-survivors-who-witnessed-saddam-s-brutality-1.138219
[21] http://abcnews.go.com/International/story?id=1674089&page=1
[22] http://www.iwf.org/news/2434725/Women’s-Lib:-Saddam-wasn’t-a-feminist.

Why I Think Vote Leave Are Talking Nonsense, on Both The Right, and The Left.

The Left Wing Argument for Brexit.

At the beginning of this campaign, I would have regarded myself as a left wing pro-exiter (or Lexiter as some people now refer to it) and I wanted to deal with the assumptions made by the Lexit campaign first. I would completely agree that the EU has a terrible track record of enforcing the rights it provides.
Many on the left also criticise the EU because they feel that our own law has done far better to build rights for workers- for example the 52 weeks of statutory maternity leave in the UK is considerably longer than the 14 weeks guaranteed by EU law [1]. However, they miss two crucial points in my view; firstly, there are millionaires on both sides, and I would much rather that rights were guaranteed on a national and international level, whilst the people in power squabble amongst themselves. Some of these rights include [5]:

the rights to a weekend,
paid holiday under the working time directive,
regulations on minimum pay for part time workers,
the right to rest and sleep by limiting the working day to a certain number of hours (dependent upon the type of work),
protection of worker’s personal data,
limitations on surveillance at work,
directive 89/391/EEC gives employers an imperative to maintain standards of secure health and safety, runs data collection on accidents at work (ESAW),
and data collection on diseases that could potentially be work related (EODS),
guarantees a target youth employment rate of 25% or above in EU countries,
with the aim of producing a 75% employment rate for those aged 20-64 years of age,
the creation of thousands of apprenticeship schemes to fill EU quotas,
bringing together experts in the EEPO to provide data for governments to better reduce rates of unemployment,
TUPE guarantees and minimizing social damage when a new manager/company takes over,
protection for people taking maternity leave,
the right to take a certain amount of time off on the grounds of family illness/bereavement (particularly important for single mothers),
the right for your union rep to be informed of any major forthcoming changes by your employer,
the collective redundancies directive (directing procedure to minimize damage of mass redundancies,
by setting a minimum standard of consultation and information between employers and employees),
providing improved conditions of employment for legal third country nationals inside EU territory,
a body/authority working towards male/female equality in the workplace,
the right to be told the terms and conditions of your employment contracts (91/553/EEC),
the right to free movement without discrimination on the grounds of nationality (BUT contrary to popular ignorance makes exceptions for times that might pose a risk to public health and security),
protection of a minimum standard for pensions (2003/41/EC),
protection of pensions in the case of a company going bankrupt (2008/94/EC- article 8),
the rights of all citizens to equal treatment and access to social security (inside a nation) as a citizen of that nation and a secondary authority to refer to in case any of your rights have been infringed.

While all of these rights may not be properly enforced at all times, and the EU provides many in addition to those provided by national parliaments, who would argue that the above rights are not worth having a second body to guarantee their legal status?

When it comes to Greece, which gets comparatively less of the legislation it votes in favour of through the EU council (Britain was on the winning side in 97% of EU council debates between 2004 and 2009, with a slight fall to 86.7% from 2009-2015 [20]) the EU often gets the blame for imposing austerity on Greece, when really the matter is not so simple. As Richard Corbett MEP puts it on his website [21]:
“Greece asked for bailout loans from the IMF and from its fellow eurozone countries — not from the EU. It was given the largest ever loan of this kind in history: long-term (30 years), low-interest (1.7 per cent) loans destined to give it time to turn the corner. It also negotiated the biggest debt restructuring in history, with the private sector writing off nearly half of Greece’s debt. Without this help, the plight of Greece would be far worse. Far from imposing austerity, European solidarity actually attenuated the pain — a point often ignored.”
I would recommend reading Mr Corbett’s full article on the recent economic pains of Greece if you are still confused about the issue [22]. The issue of Greece is far more complex than many lexit campaigners would have you believe

If this referendum has proved nothing else, it has proved that democracy is a strange and unreliable thing. Could we do without democracy? Absolutely not. Democracy is the key to a progressive society- not just a society in the interests of all the people, but a society that functions efficiently. Stalin and Mao both sincerely believed they had no requirement for it; that it was slow and pointless, and as a consequence, both proceeded to conduct policies (the Five Year Plans and the Great Leap Forward respectively) which led their people into ruin, and cost millions of lives. I like to refer to it as the dictatorship complex. Hitler also showed signs of it, through his invasion of Russia and attempt to fight a war on two fronts- in my mind, this was the suicidal result of a society in which the leader went unquestioned. And it will always be that way- it is our one saving grace that democracy will always be superior to dictatorship and one party rule.
But nonetheless, democracy has it’s issues when TV shows which should enlighten us on the debate refuse to engage in the facts and the depth of the referendum for fear of boring audiences, but are perfectly happy to talk about the “negative nature of the debate” which is something of a nothing claim in my view; the debate is always going to be negative because what we are debating is a positive/negative issue whichever way you look at it. To make such a statement as “we do 44% of our trade with the EU” is not negative from an illocutionary point of view, but the perlocutionary effect of anyone with a negative mind towards the remain campaign makes them see that as a threat and the speaker providing ‘no positive reason to stay.’ And the exact same is true of the claims made by the leave campaign.

But the second point, and I think what renders the Lexit campaign most incoherent, is that the Lexit view is based on the assumption that the UK will have a snap general election in the next few weeks, which seems unlikely, as conservative leave campaigners have already declared their intention to support the current government [2]. You see, were this not the case, the legal community are largely agreed that untangling 40 years of UK and EU law would be a job that would naturally bypass our parliament (due to the sheer scale) and be handed directly to the government, giving the conservatives an express right to re-write 40 years of UK law, as Professor Michael Dougan of Liverpool Law school stated in his speech on the referendum [3]. Anyone who can seriously support the lexit campaign despite this seriously needs to re-read that last sentence. And members of the government have stated beyond reasonable doubt that a watering down of worker’s rights is there reason for campaigning on the leave side [4].

At this point, I want to move on to the primary “right wing” Brexit campaign- the one which has dominated our media- but I should point out that there is a lot of overlap between the two campaigns moving for Britain to leave Europe.

The Right Wing Argument for Brexit.

The more right wing or “mainstream” reasons for a Brexit vote usually take one of 5 forms:
The EU quashes our democracy.
The EU destroys our sovereignty- let us be independent again.
The EU stops us controlling our borders.
We would have more money outside the EU, because we pay £xamount for EU membership.
We cannot make our own trade deals.

Now I’m going to say something that may surprise you; some of these claims are not entirely false. There is a limited amount of truth in them.
But they are extremely misleading nonetheless, and I can’t see any of the problems being solved by a British exit from the EU.

I- Democracy

Now, first of all, the EU being undemocratic depends entirely on your opinion of the term “undemocratic.” If you would regard appointment by elected representatives as undemocratic (as the commissioners are appointed by our elected leaders) then that’s your right, but you should have just as much of a problem with the British House of Lords, which as even more power over the respective parliament it is attached to, and is a much larger body. But you could say ‘but that doesn’t change the fact the EU is undemocratic.’ In which case, I would refer you to my image below, which explains why, in terms of structure, I do not believe the EU is itself undemocratic.

WhyEUisnotundemocratic

A popular Brexit myth is that the fact that most people cannot identify their MEP means that the EU is undemocratic, which seems to me a bizarre argument. It is like ordering food at a restaurant without paying attention, and then blaming the waiter for following your instructions. Is the UK undemocratic because people don’t know that Michael Gove is the Justice Minister? Popular ignorance cannot be blamed on the EU.

II- Sovereignty

By the definition put forward by the UN, the UK is regarded as a sovereign nation in every sense of the word [6], but some people still state that the EU has the power to overrule us. While this seems to be true at a first glance, the European Court of justice can only overrule our courts if it is given express permission by parliament to do so, and furthermore, the European communities act of 1972 [7] is what gives the EU all of the (very limited) rights it has to overrule our parliament. Parliament would simply have to repeal this act, and the EU would no longer have power over us in any de jure (by law) manner. So the question is, are people who require our permission to overrule us, actually telling us what to do?

The term “democracy” is being thrown around a lot. But democracy is not the same as “always getting what we want.” The two terms have analogous meaning, being neither completely univocal nor equivocal.

III- The EU stops us controlling our borders.

I’m not entirely convinced it does- Britain actually retains border control, along with Ireland, as it is outside of the borderless Schengen area. The European Union laws on free movement of peoples are very clear that free movement must be for work purposes, and can be halted on the grounds of a) threat to public services (ie overcrowding) b) threats to national security or c) the need to quarantine to keep out diseases [8].

But I think it is reasonable to still argue that this does not entirely give us control, even if 5000 Jihadis are not headed our way with nothing we can do to stop them, as Nigel Farage would have you believe.

So perhaps you want tighter border control because you don’t think that immigration is good for the country? Well, I don’t share that belief, because EU migrants contribute 34% more into the UK in taxes than they take out in benefits according to UCL [9].

But let’s assume that you’re right, and that migration will be an issue that causes us harm.

Voting Brexit will do NOTHING to solve the problem with immigration.

The most likely outcome is that it will make immigration higher, or leave us in the same situation we are in now. The latter is slightly more likely than the former.

Why do I say this? Who am I to say this?

Well, assuming that the UK leaves the EU, it will still need access to the single market. We may be the 5th largest economy in the world, but much of this depends on our membership of the European Union, and our access to the single market. And there is no European country that has been able to gain access to the single market without agreeing to European free movement rules.

A common Brexit response to this is “Well, Canada, China, and the US don’t have to have free movement to access the single market do they?” And I have to make it absolutely clear- geographically, we are dependent on the single market for huge amounts of our trade, and China, America, and Canada simply are not.

Experts from Oxford University (I still think experts are relevant despite Gove’s insistence to the contrary) have stated that we would not be negotiating this deal on our terms, but the terms of the wider EU, because they have a larger market to offer us [10]. The implication of this is, of course, that we would have to accept the free movement of peoples, and many other European laws, without actually having any say over what we do and don’t want. And it is China and America’s official position to discover what our trade deal with the single market is, before they construct their own trade deals with us [3]. Does that sound like “taking back control” to you?

That’s just allowing yourself to be bullied by larger markets.

How do we know this would happen? Well, it happened to Switzerland. Switzerland wanted access to the single market (although Switzerland never left the EU as it was never in the EU in the first place), but didn’t want to agree to the free movement of peoples. It had the chance to sign the European Economic area agreement in 1992, but because it could not accept the terms put forward by the EU. Switzerland, like Britain, saw themselves as a large market to the EU, but suffered a devastating recession in the 1990s, where growth ceased and their economy shrunk by 3% [11]. Growth only picked up again in Switzerland after they reluctantly agreed to free movement and many other EU rules that they were none too happy about in their bilateral agreement in 1998 [12]. If you want more information on this, you can go to Samuel Knopf’s video on the subject [13].

But let’s say that by some miracle we could get out of agreeing to free movement of peoples; a points based system would be even worse- conservative peer Lord Green did a study in 2011 that showed that immigration under a points based system (“like Australia has”) leads to immigration that is 3x higher per % of the population [14]. So immigration, realistically, is likely to be more of a problem, not less, in the case of a British exit.

The problem certainly won’t be solved by Brexit.

IV-  We would have more money outside the EU, because we pay £ xamount for EU membership.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Brexit’s thoroughly debunked [15] £350 million per week figure is correct. Regardless of what they would promise to spend it on, Brexit would simply not have the money to do so because almost every independent national and international body who has spoken on the subject has stated that we would be economically worse off to the point that the figure would be insignificant. To name just a few of these bodies, the IMF, the OECD, G7 economists, the IFS, White House economists, Oxford school of economics, the Treasury, the Bank of England, and London School of economics. In total 90% of economists are advising a remain vote in their capacity as professional economists [16]. More than this, thousands of universities and businesses have signed letters expressing their dismay at the logical economic sense of the leave campaign [17] [18].

And stating that these people “got it wrong on the Euro” and “didn’t predict the recession”, as many Brexiters like to argue, simply doesn’t cut it for me; it seems rather like drinking cyanide against the wishes of 90% of doctors, and justifying it on the grounds that experts didn’t manage to guess the cause of the Black Death in the middle ages. And it leaves you in a situation where you can’t believe any facts or figure you hear if you distrust 90% of the independent bodies who gather those facts for us.

brexitlogicpill

V- We cannot make our own trade deals.

This is rather similar to the argument about immigration and the underlying problems there. You may have heard Nigel Farage saying that “we don’t even have our own seat on the World Trading Organisation anymore.” This sounds very concerning, but ultimately boils down to nothing.
All of our trade deals are done through the EU for the simple reason that a market of 500 million people has greater power (the greatest in the world in fact) than a market of 70 million people (the UK population) when negotiations take place. As emphasised by Oxford’s experts [10], this is not an issue that can be dismissed lightly.

The idea of drawing up our own trade deals sounds great in principle, but in reality, we would simply be submitting to much larger markets, who are uncertain of our position on the global stage. To go back to the example of Switzerland (which I feel best reflects the UK’s own economy of all the EFTA (European Free Trade Agreement) countries), who recently tried to negotiate a trade deal with China as they are outside the EU, which it has to be said, was done on awful terms, in which Switzerland will make barely any money from the deal for the next 15 years, while China gets zero tariff access to nearly all of the Swiss markets [19]. Does that sound like a free nation? That’s nothing when compared to the negotiating power we have inside the EU.

So, in essence, I think it is beyond any doubt that the economic Brexit argument is a null issue. Brexit’s arguments seem to count for very little when more closely examined.

Which leads me in to one last point in my conclusion: this referendum should never have been called. This is too much of a sensitive and delicate issue for the British public, who are so easily swayed by sensationalist news stories, and whose politicians are unwilling to allow them to look into the details and hear expert opinion. With a combination of pressures from within his own party, and the rise of far right popularism from UKIP, Cameron was forced to bring a referendum on an issue which very few- if any- members of the public can fully understand in a balanced and coherent way. The far right will not disappear if they are appeased- Cameron needs to understand this. A remain vote will see a surge in the far right, but so will a leave vote. It is the nature of the campaigns which relied on rhetoric, because the issue was always too complex and nuanced for people to make an informed decision on, that has led to this rise in far right xenophobic attitude.

This referendum should never have happened.

 

 

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36434855
[2] http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/06/boris-makes-clear-isnt-interested-coup-david-cameron/
[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USTypBKEd8Y
[4] https://www.tuc.org.uk/international-issues/europe/eu-referendum/workplace-issues/priti-patel-reveals-leave-campaign-agenda
[5] http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=157
[6] http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/50/ares50-172.htm
[7] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1972/68/contents
[8] http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=457
[9] https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/1114/051114-economic-impact-EU-immigration
[10] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHFp3-qE_T8
[11] http://www.globaltenders.com/economy-switzerland.htm
[12] http://www.britannica.com/place/Switzerland-Year-In-Review-1998
[13] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsNXmfqQqOU
[14] http://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2014/12/lord-green-why-a-points-based-system-for-immigration-control-is-a-bad-idea.html
[15] http://infacts.org/uk-doesnt-send-eu-350m-a-week-or-55m-a-day/
[16] https://www.politicshome.com/news/europe/eu-policy-agenda/brexit/news/75538/boost-remain-90-economists-say-brexit-would-harm-uk
[17] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/eu-referendum-brexit-letter-remain-barclays-anglo-american-a7094811.html
[18] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/leaders-of-100-top-uk-universities-warn-of-brexit-risk-to-global-standing-a7092516.html
[19] http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/04/boris-and-the-brexiteers-are-talking-nonsense-about-britains-trade-policies/
[20] https://www.theguardian.com/world/datablog/2015/nov/02/is-uk-winner-or-loser-european-council
[21] http://www.richardcorbett.org.uk/eu-imposed-austerity-greece/
[22] http://leftfootforward.org/2015/06/greece-dont-take-things-at-face-value/

Toffs at the Top: My Case Against Academy Schools

What is everyone so upset about with Academy Schools?

All schools in the UK, as of this year, will become academy schools. It is a terrifying move by this government, which has set out, once again, to jeopardize a public service and serve the interests of businessmen. So, what is the deal with Academies? Well, these institutions are, in my opinion, designed to privatize schools and generate profit from people’s education. As when corporations are involved in the healthcare industry, I view this as immoral. The education of the next generation should not be dependent upon their wealth or background.

Myths about Academies

The first thing for you to understand is that Cameron’s recent statements about Academies are politicized nonsense: it is either the utmost ignorance or the most callous deception for David Cameron to keep stating that Academy schools have seen a marked improvement in pupil performance.

The figures that he keeps quoting are stated below, but if you look at the red and blue rings that I have put around two sets of figures, you will notice a detail that Cameron leaves out of his speeches: overall, academies would appear to be doing better than state schools on average. [1]

Academies paper stats edited

However, averages can be deceptive.

On the figures, academies would appear to be doing better than traditional state schools, but, this is not taking into account that there are two groups of academies: Academies which chose to convert voluntarily (ringed in blue) and those who were forced to convert into academies by Ofsted (ringed in red).

If you can see and understand this, you’ll notice something deceptive in what Cameron keeps claiming: that the schools which choose to become academies (which make up the majority of our current academies, due to a push by the coalition government in 2011) do very well, but the schools which are forced to become academies (as every state school in the country is now about to be), end up doing very badly in comparison with the national average.

Now, it must be understood, as experts such as Stephen Machin, Joan Wilson, and PwC reports have stated [2],that all studies on academies should be taken with a pinch of salt- there are very little concrete conclusions we can come to. And there are also a great many issues which arise from calculation due to factors such as the potential mean reversion [3].

But it is absolutely true to say that the government has systematically set out to deceive the public, by converting the best schools into academies, so that they could start a forced conversion process based on manipulated figures.
Studies done by groups such as NAO have had to cast doubt on their own figures because there were “relatively more advantaged pupils attending the academy as compared to the predecessor school.” [2]

Similarly, Stephen Machin and James Vernoit state that, according to their studies, the schools which have already converted to academies are relatively “characterised by having a more advantaged pupil population (lower free school meal, special educational needs and ethnic minority status) and superior GCSE attainment.” [3]

Aside from the pupils being more advantaged, the schools themselves are more advantaged, and have been aided by the government, so that they can claim that academies are a complete success story. It is a flat-out lie: they are (at the very least) no more successful than state schools.

pointy finger

The government achieved this by fast tracking schools rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted into academy status [3], and this might explain why the teachers at these schools were paid (according to National Audit Office figures) “13% more than teachers in other state-maintained secondary schools.” [2]

And if you needed further proof that Cameron is attempting to deceive the public, the chief inspector of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, even stated that academy status makes no difference to how a school will perform [4]- the exact opposite of what Cameron has claimed about academy status.

It is flat out untrue to say that academies perform better than traditional state schools, or that they raise standards. What the government has done is like taking an Olympic archer to a beginners archery class for 30 minutes, then claiming that they teach archery so well that they’ve made an Olympic archer in 30 minutes…therefore all archery coaches should now follow the government’s model.

It takes huge and ridiculous leaps in logic.

Corruption in academies

The next thing to understand is that academies are taken out of the hands of local authorities, and placed in the hands of a “trust.” Without wanting to be too subtle, a trust is a business. They have “charity” status so they don’t have to pay tax and can accept massive donations, but they are in fact a business. They are there to maximise profit.

Mostly these come in the form of Multi-Academy Trusts, or MATs for short. The only difference between these MATs and your door mat is that these MATs get to tread all over you. Because their primary interest is profit- educating the next generation is merely an afterthought.

images

Given that these MATs are businesses, it is unsurprising that they are slowly bringing ghastly corporate catch phrases that only a poorly placed ‘team building exercise’ can create. Things like “Guardian of the Flame” as one of the jobs of the CEOs. [5]

Nevertheless, it must be asked, has any of this actually led to corruption?

And the answer, of course, is it has led to a ridiculous degree of corruption.

So much so that the head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, once again felt the need to complain:
‘ “Given these worrying findings about the performance of disadvantaged pupils and the lack of leadership capacity and strategic oversight by trustees, salary levels for the chief executives of some of these MATs do not appear to be commensurate with the level of performance of their trusts or constituent academies,” wrote Sir Michael Wilshaw’ [6]

What was he talking about? Well, on more than a few occasions, there have been cases of falling standards in schools while MAT CEOs pay themselves double salaries [7], cases where they are paying themselves six figure sums as grades of the schools in their charge plummet [8] [9], and cases where they’ve chosen to pay £170,000 salaries to the MAT CEOs and head teachers, in addition to spending thousands of pounds on a single office desk. [10]

Despite the hard evidence to the contrary, many people will claim that I am simply not being open minded enough, and that the idea of corporations taking over is simply a conspiracy theory.

But, bear in mind…

Because they are being separated, once a school becomes an academy, it is no longer entitled to the services provided by the local authority, which include, but are not limited to:

– advisory services
-special educational needs (SEN)
-disability support
-behaviour support
– child and adolescent health and social care services
– emergency contingencies
-training and professional development
-payroll support
– facilitation of school networks.

And so Academy schools need to find a way to pay for these services on top of everything else. As the teachers union ATL state: “There would be no backstop, unless, like many existing academies, you contract to a private company or trust that charges a top-slice for services, in which case you have exchanged ‘local authority control’ for control by a private company.” [11]

That is what this boils down to: private companies will now have a greater say, and will be able to profit and proselytise from children’s education.

Despite the restrictions which mean that even Academies must hold two parent governors, on average, the majority of the governors (7/13 in most cases [3]) will be undemocratically chosen by the sponsor, to represent their interests in the governing of the schools.[11]

ATL also mention that any complaints made by parents will have to go directly to the Secretary of State for Education- so you’d better hope that Nicky Morgan or one of her acolytes has got time to hear what you have to say (I’ll give you a clue: she hasn’t. And her office will be flooded with complaints.)

Academies are virtually unaccountable, and filled to the brim with corporate corruption, but that’s just the start…

The Teaching Profession

Teachers will be hit extremely hard by this, and the first thing to understand is what will happen to teacher’s rights as a result of forced academisation.

Under local authority rule (the current system), teachers are guaranteed time for planning and preparation. The problem is that under an academy system, they are no longer guaranteed this time, and the decision of how much time they get for planning and preparation may be made by a naïve business person, who doesn’t know (for example) that a GCSE practice paper takes 15 minutes to mark, and the teachers may have to get through 60 or more per week.

But the ultimate insult to the teaching profession is the fact that, under an academy, the teachers don’t even have to be qualified to teach. What the government are saying is that “Anyone can teach and your training was a waste of time.”

It is deeply insulting to some of the best teachers I have had in my time throughout high school and sixth form (I’m currently a year 13 student).

teacherswholoveteaching

Teachers contracts are protected by TUPE laws (a law which guarantees your pay and conditions if a company changes hands), but only on the condition that their job title and working hours remain the same- if they deviate at all (for example if they want to work part time to care for children or a vulnerable adult when they aren’t working), then the new contract- which might include a lower salary- can be imposed upon them. [11]

Now let’s think logically about this: are a business, who are out to maximise efficiency per pound of investment ( so they have more money to spend on buying fancy desks for CEOs [10]) likely to be able to understand the teaching profession in enough depth to take into account proper planning and preparation time?

It could happen, but it’s extremely risky.

ALT also noted: “Some academies pay less maternity pay than their neighbouring schools. In some cases, staff who have moved to an academy have not had their previous service recognised for maternity purposes and have lost all built-up entitlement to maternity pay.” [11]

So we can gather that Academies are prepared to exploit teachers in the most disgusting way just to save money- my question would be: why risk it?

If you don’t know, there is already a crisis in teaching: far too few teachers. This forced academisation will only exacerbate the problem.

Ultimately, the interest for Academy trusts will be in giving the MAT CEOs a decent salary and paying their sponsors well, in whatever way they can. This path that Cameron has set us down, I am convinced, will make the crisis in teaching ten times worse. And who can blame them? Would you want to be working longer hours for less pay, less rights, and for the generation of profit, as opposed to education, with no time to prepare  lessons, knowing that the government thinks that anyone can do your job? Suddenly teaching looks like an unattractive profession.

But, as always, the Conservatives were simply looking out for those ‘hardworking’ CEOs they always seem so concerned about…

The dismantling of the public sector

There is little or no doubt in my mind that this policy was set out to lower the standard of state schools. Conservative ideology has always been that the private system of education- where you learn what you can afford to learn- is superior to the state school system. In other words, they’d rather the plebs didn’t have an education; apparently it makes us difficult to handle with simple rhetoric…

Indeed, Machin and Vernoit do explicitly state several times, that academy schools “will exacerbate already existing educational inequalities.” [3] and that “under the Labour government, the programme was aimed at combating disadvantage, and we find evidence that it may actually have achieved this objective in schools that have had academy status for a long enough period. Under the coalition government, the academies programme is now likely to reinforce advantage and exacerbate existing inequalities in schooling.” [12]

How is this done?

Well, imagine a scenario: X and Y are applying for a job as a History teacher at a school.

X is, in fact, not qualified to be a teacher, but has a B in GCSE History, is extremely enthusiastic, and (bless him) somewhat naïve about how long he can work and how little rest he needs.

Y, whereas, is actually Dr.Y- he is a very experienced teacher with top qualifications and a very academic understanding of History, based off of the PHD he has in the History of early modern English monarchs, and the three years he spent on a teaching course and working as an examiner.

Under the old system, X (much as we love his enthusiasm) would be unable to apply.

However, in an academy, X will be able to apply.

But surely they’d never give X the job?

Well, let’s say, for example, that they could only afford (due to the amount of money that was being allocated by the MAT for this new teacher) to pay them £13,000 per year, for their full time work.

houses_3266129b

No one should be able to turn education into a money making scheme beyond a basic salary

Dr.Y is likely to refuse- he didn’t go through eight long years at university and three years of experience as an examiner to be paid the minimum wage: he has two children to feed, and a disabled partner who he promised to take care of.

X will get the job by default, while the upper class private school down the road, offers Dr.Y £27,000 per year to come and work as a History teacher for them.

This is how Academies will lower the standard of teaching in state schools and systematically centralise qualified teachers in private schools. This is the destruction of a public service, there is no other word for it.

And now many people feel that this will be used by the government to say something along the lines of “we tried to save state education, but it wasn’t working, so we’ll have to privatise the system- sell it off one chunk at a time.”

Given the fact that this government has manipulated data to deceive the public into believing that a schooling system, which actually causes harm to state owned schools, is superior, is it really that much of a stretch to imagine that this might be there end goal?

The whole thing reeks of corruption. Nicky Morgan and David Cameron have failed to convince me that they have children’s best interests at heart. The decision to force all schools to become academies against their wishes, will stand, I am convinced, as one of the worst decisions that has been made in British education, in the first two decades of the twentieth century.

References:

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/revised-gcse-and-equivalent-results-in-england-2014-to-2015
[2] http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED529842
[3] cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/pa011.pdf
[4] http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/dec/10/ofsted-sir-michael-wilshaw-struggling-schools-academy-neglect
[5] http://www.future-leaders.org.uk/insights-blog/what-does-it-mean-be-ceo-multi-academy-trust/
[6] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-35775458
[7] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-35890448
[8] http://www.teachingtimes.com/news/poor-school-results.htm
[9] http://www.theguardian.com/education/2011/nov/14/academies-pay-200k-salaries
[10] http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2014/10/the-academy-head-the-4500-desk-and-the-170k-salary
[11] www.atl.org.uk/app-faq-20-01
[12] https://ideas.repec.org/p/cep/cepcnp/325.html