New songs, albums and radio stuff, plus a big move…

Some updates on my acoustic singer-songwriter side of life. Because you asked*.

I’ve got some new songs (you can have ‘em for free)

As usual, they’re home recordings, i.e. I’ve stuck my phone on a random surface and hoped it came out OK. Most of the time it vaguely works. I think…

1. A cover of Defiance Ohio‘s brilliant rallying cry against modern society:

2. An instrumental piece inspired by Cornwall and the summer:

A new ‘album’

I’ve stuck together a collection of my recent demos in a free compilation thing called Luddite Ballads. Which I might use as the title of my actual new EP thing coming out soon from Rack Mount Records. More on that in a mo.

Actual new album thing

The proper EP I’ve been recording over the past year (feels like forever!) is finally coming out soon on iTunes and Spotify and all that stuff, so I’ll have something official for once. Which will be great. Keep your eye out! Just being mastered etc. at the moment I think so I’ll wack it on the blog when it’s all done.

On t’ Radio

I did a BBC Introducing session the other week with Radio York, as part of their York and North Yorkshire Introducing programme to get up and coming artists heard. You can still listen to it here. I’m 43:30ish in so listen out.

I play three of my own tracks, two of my favourite artists (Bragg and Guthrie) and have a general chat/interview about life, politics and music. It was good fun. Hope you enjoy it too.

On me travels

And with that, I’m off to Belgium to live for six months, working as a (paid!) intern with the Green European Foundation, a think tank linked with the Greens in the European Parliament. It should be exciting and a nice chance to live abroad (despite my lack of French/Flemish). I’ll keep the blog going and will keep strumming. See you soon.

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* That may or may not be true.

The Rotten Apple: How Your iPhone Crushes Workers’ Rights

I thought I’d share this email from SumOfUs.org, a great online campaigning organisation in the spirit of Avaaz and 38 Degrees.

It’s basically another example of multinationals getting away with human rights violations through delegating responsibility for production (and therefore employer ethics) to sub-contractors in other countries.

Of course, the contracts won’t say ‘you must ban unions’, but the production (inc. labour) costs will be so cheap as for the employer at the top of the chain to understand that will probably be the case.

Apple will be able to pressure over its suppliers, whether through financial or competitive means – i.e. saying we’ll ditch you or we’ll give you more dosh to cover better working conditions. Is that going to happen? Not without pressure from the public. Reputational damage can be a good ally to industrial action and can be a crucial way of those outside of the workplace (and indeed country) exercising cross-border solidarity.

In short, sign and share the petition, please. It’s important.

——

“You’re fired!”

That’s how one of Apple’s key suppliers, NXP, responded to 24 workers in the Philippines who were attempting to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement in May. It’s a disgusting attack on workers rights, and Apple has to stop it.

The iPhone 6 will reportedly contain technology from NXP, and so we have an opportunity now to move Apple to act upon its commitments to workers. The company wants buzz about new product features, not flaws. If thousands of us stand up now, Apple can be forced to demand that NXP reinstate the 24 workers.

Tell Apple to demand that its supplier NXP Philippines reinstate the workers who were wrongfully dismissed.

NXP, which is reportedly supplying technology for Apple’s new iPhone 6, fired the 24 workers under the pretext that their failure to work on a number of public holidays amounted to an illegal strike.

But we suspect something much more insidious is happening. The workers have been protesting for months to get their jobs back. It appears that NXP now wants to pay them off to shut up and go away, basically acknowledging that they were wrongfully dismissed.

The NXP 24 don’t want to be silenced and trade their fundamental rights for corporate cash — and they shouldn’t have to. Apple claims to ensure that its suppliers treat workers with respect and dignity. Apple could weigh in to get the workers back their jobs now, but so far the Californian IT giant has done nothing to fix this serious issue.

The 24 fired workers are leading members of a trade union, the MWAP. For months now they have been without work and pay, but their spirits are kept high by the solidarity they receive from friends and supporters like you around the globe. NXP’s dismissal of all of the union leadership is an attack upon the rights of all workers to freely associate and organise.

Nobody wants the products they buy from Apple to be tainted by the abuse of workers in developing countries. What’s more, Apple says that it is serious about supplier responsibility. Now it’s time to put those words into action–to demand justice for the workers who were illegally fired.

Apple needs to demand that the 24 workers get their jobs back immediately.

It took years of sustained pressure from conscientious consumers and activists like you before Apple agreed to make serious changes to the way it treated the workers in its supply chain. Now the company must deliver on those promises.

Thanks for all that you do,
Jon, Eoin, Marie, Martin and the rest of us.

**********

More information:

iPhone 6 supplier NXP ramps up intimidation and delaying tactics, IndustriALL Union, 16 July 2014
NXP sacks union leaders, Electronics Weekly, 16 July 2014

Could you go five weeks without money? Under a new DWP plan you might have to

[Reposted from Left Foot Forward]

Further punitive restrictions on Universal Credit are on the way

Job Centre ncrjThe latest development of Ian Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit scheme will soon mean that people made unemployed will have to wait at least five weeks before getting any financial support.

At present it’s two weeks; still a long time to wait when you have bills to pay and mouths to feed.

Some of this is administrative delay, but with the new five week wait it will be a deliberate strategy to force people into immediate work or push them into penury – the latter being more likely in an economy where jobs increasingly can’t actually fund even basic necessities like housing and energy costs.

That’s why the TUC have launched a campaign to ‘Stop the Five Week Wait’ as part of their Saving Our Safety Net project, launching a petition against IDS’ impoverishment strategy.

It poses a very clear question: how long could you go without any income? Even for those in work, many have to scrape together money from friends and family at the end of the month in what some call ‘scrounge week’. Imagine that week becoming five.

Why so long? A whole calendar month will be spent ‘assessing’ the amount of benefit you’ll be able to receive. Then you’ll have to wait a week for the DWP to actually arrange your payment.

But you’ll also have a week-long period when you will be unable to even apply for Universal Credit. The government is deciding whether this will be during the assessment period or beforehand, meaning potentially sixweeks in assessment, admin and spiteful restrictions.

And this from a government that supposedly hates bureaucracy and red tape.

There will be some emergency support available. But the rules on who can claim it will be so strict that very few able to claim Universal Credit will be eligible. Richard Exell at the TUC writes that “one reason for being turned down, for instance, will be that your family has debts that might make it hard for you to repay the advance.” Unbelievable.

The public are against it, understandably – by 70 per cent to 18 per cent when told about the policy. Even the vast majority of UKIP and Conservative voters oppose the wait.

But there’s a problem: just 13 per cent have actually heard of it. We need, therefore, to spread the word fast if there’s to be any chance of stopping this disastrous scheme going under wraps.

The policy can be summarised quite simply: the state safety net being outsourced to food banks and payday loan sharks. This is a government hand-out to Wonga and co, while returning to the Victorian welfare state of unreliable charity. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady has branded it+ ‘cruel and vindictive’.

It comes in next April – just a month before the General Election. With a strong enough campaign, it can be halted or pushed beyond that date. So there is an opportunity for the opposition to succeed. Millions of people who might be made redundant over the coming years are relying on that outcome.

You can read the TUC’s report on the five week wait, Universal Credit: Solving the problem of delay in benefit payments, here.

Please share this and spread the word against this deeply disturbing plan.

The Young Greens’ letter in the Guardian today

The Young Greens are in the letters page of the Guardian today arguing that the Green Party are the real third party in British youth politics.

It follows a fawning Guardian article earlier this week on Young Independence, the youth wing of UKIP.

I was pleased to write and sign the letter along with over 50 other Young Green activists and the entire National Committee.

Please share widely!

Young Greens’ growth spurt

While we welcome opening up the debate about parties, your article on Young Independence (Not all rich, not all white, totally Eurosceptic: meet Ukip’s youth, 4 August) ignored the real third force in youth politics right now – the Green party. The Young Greens, the youth branch of the Green party, has grown by 70% since March this year alone, now standing at well over 3,000 members – more than Young Independence – and we have 60 branches in dozens of towns and cities across the UK.

This puts us ahead of the Liberal Democrats and catching up with Labour to be a highly significant force among young people, both within the student movement and outside. Poll after poll puts Green party support among young people at over 15%, more than the Liberal Democrats and Ukip combined.

Young Greens are at the forefront of campaigns across the country opposing the politics of the hard right and fighting for decent housing and jobs for all, free education, a living wage and publicly owned services – and opposing austerity, which hits young people incredibly hard. In contrast to the mainstream parties, we are also proud to be against the scapegoating of migrants and the refusal to tackle climate change.

This October we will be holding our convention in Brighton. We welcome all those who similarly value social and environmental justice to come along.
Siobhan MacMahon and Clifford Fleming Young Greens co-chairs, Josiah Mortimer, Laura Summers, Thom French and Fiona Costello National committee members, Charlene Concepcion National treasurer and London Young Greens co-chair, Amelia Womack Lambeth Green party, deputy leader candidate, Bradley Allsop Chair of Northampton Young Greens, Howard Thorpe Green party campaigns coordinator, Sahaya James Gloucestershire Young Greens chair, Karl Stanley Co-convener Young Greens North, Hannah Ellen Clare, Co-convenor Young Greens North, Joseph Clough Manchester Young Greens treasurer, Jantje Technau Canterbury Young Greens chair, Deborah Fenney Leeds University Union Green party secretary, Pete Kennedy Coordinator, Doncaster Green party, Samantha Pancheri Chair Milton Keynes Young Greens, Jo Kidd Chair Canterbury district Green party, Ross Campbell Liverpool Young Greens chair, Benjamin Sweeney Co-chair Dudley Green party, Mani Blondel North Staffordshire Green party, Keele University Young Greens, Rory Lee Bath & North East Somerset Green party, Darren Bisby-Boyd Peterborough Young Greens, Alex Bailey Peterborough Young Greens, Jack Tainsh Peterborough Young Greens, Emma Carter Leeds Young Greens, David Stringer Teesside Young Greens organiser, Alexander Catt Blackwater Valley Green party, Glen Marsden Manchester Young Greens, Duncan Davis Nottingham Young Greens, George Blake Keele Student Greens, Mike Lunn-Parsons North Staffordshire Green party and Keele Young Greens, William Pinkney-Baird Durham Young Greens, Harriet Pugh Manchester Young Greens, Merlin Drake Ceredigion Green party, Lisa Camps York Green party, Grant Bishop Birmingham Green party, Sam Peters Surrey Green party, Matthew Genn Sheffield and Rotherham Young Greens, Lucy Bannister Manchester Young Greens, Rustam Majainah Surrey GP, Matthew Maddock Keele University Young Greens, Huseyin Kishi London Young Greens, Portia Cocks Mid Sussex, Crawley and Horsham Greens, Graham Bliss Rugby Greens, Andrew Iredale Young Greens, Andrea Grainger Keele University Young Greens, Julia Lagoutte Durham University Young Greens, Lee Burkwood Waltham Forest and Redbridge, Alan Borgars Welwyn Hatfield Green party, Miles Grindey South East Hampshire Green party, Merryn Davies-Deacon South West Young Greens

As Tories bicker over a flat tax, here’s why it doesn’t work…

Tory policy chief Oliver Letwin is calling for a ‘flat tax’ rate, according to a Mirror exclusive yesterday.

He was talking in private to a laissez faire think tank, Politeia, and although instantly rebutted by Conservative Party HQ, it has sparked debate about Tory plans to cut tax for the rich, with Ed Balls today arguing the party is ‘champing at the bit’ to slash the top rate to 40%.

But that itself marks a step towards a flat tax, a policy both George Osborne and David Cameron have praised in the past. Left Foot Forward covered the topic last year amid a renewal of right-wing interest in the policy. What is it though?

The policy entails everyone paying the same basic rate – usually touted as around 20 or 30%. But it has two major possible implications.

If it was set at a low rate, it would require enormous further cuts to public services to compensate for tax income plummeting overnight. But if it was set at a high rate, it would require enormous tax rises among the poor to fund an effective tax cut for the rich, i.e. from the 45% top rate down to the 31% that the Institute for Fiscal Studies says would be necessary to maintain current Treasury tax receipts.

So we have two options with the flat tax – Cameron’s ‘permanent austerity’ hailed by neoliberals (an outcome which would hit the poorest hardest), or significant tax rises for low earners, which would also hit the poorest hardest. The flat tax is therefore, as is commonly understood, deeply regressive. Doesn’t take a genius to work it out.

But it’s also verified by several studies. Here’s an analysis of US flat tax plans by income bracket:

Flat tax

Citizens for Tax Justice, based in the US where calls for a flat tax rate are frequent, have therefore determined that the shift would result in ‘enormous tax cuts for the richest five percent of taxpayers’ alongside ‘tax hikes for all other income groups’, while leaving the investment income of the wealthy essentially untaxed.

Moreover, there’s little evidence to suggest it would ‘work’ in the way right-wing advocates say it would. It has only been introduced in some Baltic states and Russia. In the latter, it was hailed as dramatically boosting actual payment of tax, where previously it had been avoided. But according to a London School of Economics report, this coincided with a dramatic boost in tax collecting powers, and sweeping changes to other forms of taxation, a finding confirmed by another 2007 study.

Meanwhile, another key argument for the Flat Tax, ‘simplicity’, has been fundamentally rebutted by a University of Chicago study, which showed that in any complex economy there is no such thing as a ‘simple’ tax system, particularly when companies and individuals can avoid tax at whatever level it is set. The implementation costs for shifting to such a system were also significant.

Even a study by the free market IMF stressed ‘empirical evidence on [flat taxes’] effects is very limited’ although they did find that ‘there is no sign of Laffer [curve]-type behavioural responses generating revenue increases from the tax cut’ – in non-academic terms, cutting tax didn’t stop avoidance or boost productivity and government income.

So with the evidence unclear, or if anything pointing against a flat tax rate, the Tories have a choice to make. They could adopt a policy so right-wing even UKIP have abandoned it, in what would entrench their perception as the party of the rich forever…or they could ‘do the right thing’ for ‘hardworking people’ and drop the ludicrous plans.

Have the Mail and Express just started backing Occupy?

A strange thing happened last week. The Daily Mail ran a headline: ‘He shall not be moved!’ The issue? 200 people answered a call from a cancer sufferer to stop bailiffs evicting him.

The story was extremely positive, hailing ‘people power’ as ‘supporters stage a peaceful protest’.

Daily Mail

And it wasn’t just the Mail. The Express ran the story too, with the headline: ‘Saved from eviction by army of 200 strangers’, backed up by the caption ‘The comfort of strangers…around 200 turned up to stop bailiffs evicting Tom and Susan Crawford from their Notts home on Wednesday.’

Daily Express

So, the question is, have the right-wing press just started backing Occupy-style tactics?

Now, a couple of points. The victim of the bailiffs was a cancer sufferer, so there is a definite human-interest element to this. Secondly, it came from a YouTube request for help – and viral posts often make headlines. But there are a couple of other questions to ask: would these papers have covered the story so positively (or at all) if the resident had been a council house victim of the bedroom tax?

And, a more controversial question: if the family had not been elderly and white, but young and from ethnic minority backgrounds – or even, heaven forbid, unemployed after being made redundant – how would the papers have covered the story? Would they have covered it at all?

There’s precedent to this tactic, after all. Occupy-coordinated actions against evictions happened a lot at the movement’s peak, particularly in the US but also in the UK – and I’m pretty sure they didn’t get (glowing) coverage in these two right-wing papers. Perhaps it’s because those were victims of austerity, rather than the error of a nationalised bank – then Bradford and Bingley.

That’s not to say it’s a bad thing. It simply points to an inconsistency. The Express have been running a campaign all week (well, all their existence) against immigrants in social housing, while the Daily Mail is typically no friend of the dispossessed. Remember the Daily Mail during the Dale Farm traveller eviction case? They owned the land, but were forced out to cheers from the reactionary press. Or when 50 people were evicted from an unused UBS office block?

So have we witnessed the start of a new sympathy for those at the hard end of the housing crisis?

My guess is no. But I hope I’m wrong.

Poll: public want fewer journos and more factory workers in Parliament

A recent YouGov poll shows that voters overwhelmingly want people from ordinary backgrounds elected to parliament – and far fewer journalists and lawyers.

57% of the public want more factory workers elected to Parliament, joint second with scientists, while 61% want more doctors as MPs.

Reporters and lawyers top the poll for the least popular MP backgrounds, with 48% wanting fewer journalists and 46% fewer lawyers in the House of Commons.

Poll results

Since 1979, the percentage of MPs who had occupations as manual workers has decreased from 16% 35 years ago to just 4% today. Meanwhile the proportion of MPs from political backgrounds has surged from just over 3% in 1979 to nearly 15% today, while the number of white collar workers and solicitors has also increased.

backgrounds of MPs by occupation

Perhaps surprisingly, over a quarter of the public want to fewer military officers and social workers elected, while 54% want more economists elected – a potential source disappointment for Modern History graduate George Osborne.

Dividing the results by party background leads to some interesting results. UKIP voters want more factory workers in Parliament, with 62% ranking it the highest priority, while Conservatives overwhelmingly want more doctors (64%) and economists (65%).

Perhaps less surprisingly, Labour supporters primarily want more factory workers in Parliament (72%) as well as GPs (71%), whereas Lib Dems would back more teachers in the Commons (62%) and scientists (63%).

YouGov say the poll reflects the most trusted professions, with journalists ranking among the least popular.

Analysing the poll, YouGov’s William Jordan said: “It’s possible some voters are aware of, and worried about, the recent decline in the number of manual workers in Parliament, and the consistently tiny proportion of MPs that were once doctors or scientists.”

Unfortunately the survey didn’t ask about one profession – bankers. You can probably guess what the result would be (i.e. bad news for former stockbroker Nigel Farage…).