On the Fringe: David Elston, Pirate Party UK

Pirate Ship and the Setting Sun, August 2009 by Paul Hamilton

Pirate Party UK is our first brave volunteer as we explore the fringe movements campaigning against the dominance of the Westminster parties in British politics.

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Corbynite and chief PCS unionist Mark Serwotka barred in Labour purge

Mark Serwotka in June 2008 by Glastonbury Left Field

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union, was barred from voting in the Labour leadership election on Tuesday after he sent in a ballot for Jeremy Corbyn via email.

The chief of the civil service and public sector union had signed up as a registered supporter of the party for £3, but was snagged by Labour’s vetting process intended to counter disagreeable lefties and trolling Tories, both of whom are seen as likely to vote for Corbyn.

Ruth Serwotka, wife of Mark, took to Twitter to complain about the decision, writing: “Mark [has] been prevented from voting in a Labour Movement election as an affiliated member. I’m very interested to hear the reasons.”

She went on to post photos of her husband campaigning with Corbyn, whose entry into the contest has ruffled a few Blairite feathers after he barely made it onto the ballot and proceeded to be much more likeable than his fake plastic rivals.

The PCS claims to be the sixth biggest trade union in Britain, with 220,000 members, and unlike the likes of Unison and Unite has not endorsed any candidate for leadership of the Labour party, which it is not affiliated with.

Serwotka has not been a member of the Labour party since 1980, according to the Independent, and has in the past voted and expressed support for other parties.

Though Labour refuses to comment on specific cases, it did earlier reveal that affiliation to other parties was grounds for being barred from the leadership election.

Other prominent figures barred in the election include comedian Mark Steel and science writer Marcus Chown, who mocked Labour on Wednesday after it was revealed the party had purged 1,900 Green party supporters in the leadership poll.

Steel has previously campaigned for the Socialist Workers Party and supported Green MP Caroline Lucas, whilst Chown joined the National Health Action (NHA) party in a bid to reverse “privatisation of the NHS”.

Image Credit – Mark Serwotka in June 2008 by Glastonbury Left Field

Greens whack top earners with 60% tax

The Greens have announced plans to hit the highest earners with a 60 percent rate of tax, following a slew of tax reform proposals by the Tories and Labour.

Under the scheme those earning more than £150,000 a year would have to cough up 60p on every £1 over that sum, 15p more than the current top tax rate, which stands at 45 percent.

Commenting on the change Natalie Bennett, leader of the Greens, said: “For too long now the economy in this country has worked for those at the top, while failing everyone else.

“The 60p tax will raise money to fund crucial public services, contributing towards the reversal of the failed policy of austerity that is making the poor, the disadvantaged and the young pay for the greed and fraud of the bankers.”

The Greens claim this change will bring in some £2bn, and also “act as a disincentive to companies paying excessively high salaries”.

According to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), about one percent of income taxpayers currently pay the top rate of tax, accounting for almost 30 percent of the country’s income tax as of January 2014.

Since last year Labour has mooted plans to bring back the 50 percent rate of tax, originally introduced by Labour prime minister Gordon Brown in April 2010, just before the last general election.

Fiscal liberals have argued such a move would discourage high-earning individuals from moving to Britain, whilst their progressive opponents believe further taxes on high-earnings would more fairly share the burden of running public services.

Bennett said: “Only the Green Party are proposing radical changes which will redistribute wealth within our economy and encourage companies to reduce the gap between their highest- and lowest-earners.”

The Greens’ move follows Labour’s plan to revoke the non-domicile or non-dom tax status, which allows those living in Britain to avoid paying tax on foreign earnings, as well as the Tories’ plan to raise the threshold at which inheritance tax is paid on homes to £1m.

Fleet Street fights over leaders’ debate polls

Fleet Street, Josep Renalias

The famous partisanship of Fleet Street emerged in full view in the wake of Thursday’s leaders’ debate, which saw the chiefs of the seven main parties face off against one another in a first for a British general election.

As the dust settled on Twitter following the two hours of rumbunctious squabbling the typesetters of Fleet Street were already deciding how they would pitch the result to their readers, with the Sun’s splash perhaps the most controversial:

Toeing the same line were the folks at the Torygraph, who lived up to the nickname with the following front page:

Such partisanship is hardly unknown on the Street of Shame, with the Murdoch press infamous for their attack on Labour leader Neil Kinnock in the general election of 1992.

Even so, Owen Jones of Guardian fame was suitably aggrieved, himself taking Twitter to remonstrate with the Tory pressmen:

As Jones indicates, the polls were not quite as unfavourable to Milipede the Younger as could have been garnered from the lead stories in the Sun or the Torygraph. Not that the Guardian was completely innocent of spin:

Of course, as any statistician could tell you, polls of polls tend to be superior to any single ballot, mitigating for the bias of the question or slanted sampling that has yet to be accounted for.

Poll Natalie Bennett (Green) Nick Clegg (Lib Dem) Nigel Farage (Ukip) Ed Miliband (Labour) Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru) Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) David Cameron (Tory)
ICM 3% 9% 19% 25% 2% 17% 24%
ComRes 5% 9% 21% 21% 2% 20% 21%
YouGov 5% 10% 20% 15% 4% 28% 18%
Survation 3% 6% 24% 25% 2% 15% 25%
Average 4% 8.5% 21% 21.5% 2.5% 20% 22%

On that basis the most plausible “winner” last night has to be Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader whom none of the Tory press are too keen on owing to her desire to split up the United Kingdom, abandon Trident and turn Britain into a socialist utopia (etc).

Thankfully others have since picked up on the far more boring story – these TV debates appear to have changed little, and we are still heading for a parliament more hung than a Californian porn star.

Image – Josep Renalias