1 June 2024Comment

Corporate and financial capture of the state, not peaceful protest, is the real threat to democracy argues Milan Rai  

In this issue, we look at some proposals for cracking down on protest, from lord Walney, the government’s advisor on political violence and disruption, in his report Protecting our Democracy from Coercion (see here).

Walney doesn’t actually deal with the major forms of arm-twisting that interfere with democracy in Britain.

Walney doesn’t, for example, make any proposals for how to stop…

1 April 2024Review

Pluto Press, 2023; 272pp; £20

Why is it legal to advertise products that are driving us and the planet to destruction? Why should advertisers be able to tempt us to buy an SUV [an oversized car – ed] as if it were no more damaging to the environment than a bicycle? And what can we do about it?

All these questions and more are tackled in Badvertising

We are surrounded by advertising: online, on TV, in the street, on public transport, and – more insidiously – through sponsorship, whether it’s BP…

1 February 2024News in Brief

On 5 December, Culture Unstained put a formal 34-page complaint to the board of trustees of London’s Science Museum. The climate action group called for director Ian Blatchford to be investigated for his role in pushing through a sponsorship deal in 2021 with a major coal-producing conglomerate Adani.

‘Adani Green Energy’ is sponsoring a climate gallery.

Culture Unstained also called for the museum to cut ties with Adani, because the process that led to the sponsorship deal ‘…

1 October 2022Comment

The final instalment in our series about tackling a destructive quango in East Sussex

SeaChange Sussex is a private not-for-profit company which has received tens of millions of pounds of public money to ‘regenerate’ Hastings in East Sussex. Andrea Needham has been monitoring it through Seachangewatch.

I’ve been plugging away trying to expose SeaChange for many years now. And, finally, it feels as if I’m not on my own.

For years, I read minutes of meetings, put in Freedom of Information requests, wrote blogposts, and posted them on my website. I sent out press…

1 August 2022Comment

No 4 in our series about tackling SeaChange, a destructive quango in East Sussex  

Despite the huge sums of money that had been thrown at SeaChange Sussex, most people in Hastings were unaware of its existence.

SeaChange, the private company which had received millions of pounds of public money to ‘regenerate’ Hastings in East Sussex, including building the much-hated Bexhill-Hastings Link Road (see PN 2658), preferred to keep it that way.

I once went to a ‘consultation’ about yet another new road that SeaChange was building across yet another piece…

1 June 2022Comment

No 3 in our series about tackling SeaChange, a destructive quango in East Sussex

‘You idiot. You naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop. There is really no description of stupidity, no matter how vivid, that is adequate. I quake at the imbecility of it.’

These are the words Tony Blair – not known for self-flagellation – uses in his memoir, A Journey, to describe his decision in 2005 to finally allow the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act to come into force.

When Blair was leader of the opposition, he pledged that if Labour came to power, he would…

1 April 2022Comment

How to hold a destructive quango to account – part two in a series

In 2015, I went with Peace News’ Emily Johns to the Hastings home of John Shaw, director of SeaChange, the ‘not for profit economic development company’ for East Sussex.

SeaChange – a private company – has been given millions of pounds of public money to ‘regenerate’ Hastings.

This ‘regeneration’ has included building the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road in the teeth of fierce local opposition (see PN 2658).

Emily and I had come from the site of SeaChange’s latest…

1 February 2022News

100,000 block major Belgrade road 

After weeks of nonviolent protest, the world’s second-largest mining company has been shut out of a major project in Serbia.

The prime minister, Ana Brnabić, said on 20 January: ‘All permits were annulled.... we put an end to Rio Tinto in Serbia.’

A coalition of Serbian eco-activist groups had mobilised thousands of people for weeks of road blockades to halt plans by Rio Tinto Group (RTG) to dig a lithium mine in western Serbia.

The protests, in dozens of cities and…

1 February 2022Comment

Starting a new series: how a brilliant activist has held a secretive quango to account.  

Nine years ago, I was part of a big campaign to stop the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road, a monstrosity of a road that threatened fragile habitats in the service of ‘opening up’ land for development. We were also promised, of course, that it would reduce congestion on the coast road between the two towns – a promise that would be greeted with a hollow laugh by anyone with the slightest knowledge of road-building and ‘induced demand’ (more roads create more traffic).

It was a hard-fought…

1 June 2015Review

Pluto Press, 2015; 192pp; £12.99

It’s easy to forget, but art galleries are ‘our’ galleries: they are supposed to belong to us. You might even like to think of them as having taken the place of (now defunct) churches. So how did oil money seep through their walls?

Mel Evans begins by charting the journey of arts funding in the UK. The Arts Council of Attlee’s postwar Britain was deliberately at arm’s length from the state. Thatcher and Tebbit increased government involvement, which enabled New Labour to follow…

28 September 2014Review

Pluto Press, 2012; 280pp; £16

In the mid-18th century, the East India Company (EIC) accounted for half of the world’s trade, had its own army and enjoyed tax-raising powers over 10 million Indians. Yet, strangely, not a single London memorial exists to remember it.

The Battle of Plassey (1757) kicked off the EIC's takeover of a large swathe of Bengal. Company execs bought up and hoarded rice, contributing to huge famines throughout the 18th century. Robins cites an 1878 article from the Journal of the…

1 October 2013Review

OR Books, 2012; 118pp; £7

Since creating the post-religious Church of Stop Shopping in 1999, the Reverend Billy has held services in churches, community centres, forests, fields, parking lots, shopping malls and – above all – inside brand-name stores across the US and Europe, preaching against consumerism, and for economic and ecological justice.

The creation of actor Bill Talen, the Reverend Billy is…

9 March 2013News in Brief

A third of people in Britain are currently boycotting the products or sevices of a company because it does not pay its fair share of tax in the UK, according to a new Christian Aid survey.

Two out of three Britons believe tax avoidance is morally wrong, and 80% say that multinationals’ tax avoidance makes them feel angry.

A massive 89% of those questioned said it is unfair that they have to pay their…

9 March 2013News in Brief

Britain’s banks are avoiding billions in tax, using an accounting loophole, The Times reported on 1 March.

Banks borrow money by issuing IOUs called ‘bonds’. If confidence in a bank grows, the value of its bonds increases, and it could in theory cost more to buy back the bond than to pay off the money owed.

Using the ‘fair value on own credit’ rule, a bank could then enter a loss in its accounts. The…

8 March 2013News

There has been a furious response to the news that transnational power company EDF is suing 21 anti-climate change activists for £5m for shutting down an EDF power station in Nottinghamshire for a week.

A petition by the parents of one of the activists gained 50,000 signatures online in its first week, and a call has gone out to shut down the annual EDF Talk Power Conference on 1 May.

Two chimneys at the West Burton gas-fired power station were occupied last October by 16 ‘No Dash for Gas’ campaigners to protest at the government’s plan to build up to 40 new gas-fired power stations (see PN 2552-2553).

On 20 February, 21 ‘No Dash for Gas’ activists…