News in brief

Corbyn backed

Labour party activists in Islington North, in London, have backed former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn is a member of the Labour party but not a Labour MP, as a result of decisions made by the current Labour leadership – which has also barred him from running as a Labour MP in the next election.

A motion ‘thanking Mr Corbyn for his “commitment and service to the people who have a democratic right to select our MP” was endorsed by a whopping 98 per cent of local [Labour party] members at their monthly general meeting’, the Morning Star reported on 18 May.

Keep clear

Another good idea from Possible is to make sure that wheelchair users, pushchair-pushers and disabled pedestrians are not blocked by the hundreds of thousands of on-street charging points for electric vehicles that are going to be built in the next few years.

Currently, a Possible investigation has found, many charging points are being installed on pavements, blocking footways, rather than on extensions of the kerb into the road, which is the recognised best practice.

For these and more good ideas:

Don’t soar so often?

The climate action group Possible (formerly 10:10) is proposing a ‘frequent flyer levy’ which would go up with the number of flights – or the air miles travelled – by each passenger.

Someone taking their fourth flight of the year would pay a higher tax on that flight than someone on the same plane who hasn’t yet flown that year.

Possible point out that just 15 percent of people who fly frequently take 70 percent of all UK flights, while more than half the UK population don’t fly at all in any given year.

The additional tax from the frequent flyer levy could be used to create climate-friendly green jobs, and help former aviation workers into these roles. Just Transition!

Soaring home ed

Home education in England has jumped a massive 50 percent since 2018, according to separate investigations by Schools Week and the Guardian.

The latest figures from local authorities show that 116,300 children were being home-educated at some point in the 2021 – 2022 school year.

The corresponding figure was just 78,800 back in 2018 – 2019, according to the association of directors of children’s services.

There is increasing pressure for a compulsory register for home-educated children, including from Humanists UK which objects to unlicensed religious schools using the loophole of home education.

Job insecurity

Within days of it being launched, 2,000 people are said to have signed a Stop the War Coalition open letter opposing a call for increased military spending from the Trade Union Congress (TUC), a union federation in England and Wales.

The Stop the War petition, put out in the run-up to May Day, was a response to a motion passed at the TUC congress last October. This supported ‘immediate increases in defence spending’ and demanded ‘a 30-year pipeline of defence work across sectors’, including the Dreadnought programme, which is building the Trident replacement submarine force to carry Britain’s nuclear weapons. More info:

Polling security

In the UK, most opinion polls on national security issues reinforce the existing government way of defining security.

That’s the conclusion of a new report, Thinking Inside the Box, by researcher Lillah Fearnley for the Rethinking Security project.

For example, when UK polls ask for opinions about how the government should respond to conflicts overseas, they often exclude options for non-military intervention (such as dialogue and mediation). The public can often only choose between military intervention or doing nothing.

Drone insecurity

Moroccan drone attacks in Western Sahara are forcing thousands of people to flee, sometimes for a second time, leaving the territory for Algeria or Mauritania, the New Humanitarian reported in mid-May.

Morocco has illegally occupied two-thirds of Western Sahara since 1975; these attacks occurred in the other third of the country, desert controlled by the Sahrawi national liberation movement, Polisario.

Sahrawis gave US journalist Wilson McMakin photographs taken this year of civilian vehicles destroyed in drone attacks, many of which were ‘too graphic to publish as they show mangled cars and charred remains’.

The Sahrawis said that Moroccan drones have also targeted camels, the basis for the economy in the ‘liberated’ third of the country: ‘Several Sahrawi told the New Humanitarian they believe the Moroccan military’s goal is to depopulate Polisario-held zones.

Morocco has had Turkish Bayraktar TB2 and Chinese Wing Loong attack drones since 2021. It is said to have used a Wing Loong to assassinate the chief of Polisario’s gendarmerie, Addah Al Bendir, in April 2021.

US president Donald Trump agreed a $1bn deal to sell a version of the MQ-9 Reaper killer drone (and a lot of precision-guided weapons) to Morocco, as he left office, but this deal has not yet gone ahead.

Hiroshima fast

This year’s international Hiroshima fast is not taking place in London but in Bristol, as part of the annual ‘Peace Gathering’.

Fasters include Dr Matthias Engelke, a Lutheran pastor from Germany, and Etienne Godinot, a retired lawyer from France. Both of them have been leading anti- nuclear fasts in their own countries for over 10 years.

You are invited to join the fast either for a day or for the whole spell, 6 – 9 August.

The ‘Peace Glade’ in Castle Park is behind the ruined church and midway along the footpath/ cycleway overlooking the Harbour/ Finzels Reach. More info on p24 and from XR Peace Bristol: www.

Nukewatch volunteers wanted!

On 17 May, Nukewatch monitored a nuclear warhead convoy going from the nuclear bomb factory at AWE Burghfield in southern England to the Trident warhead storage facility in Coulport on the west coast of Scotland. (The 20 or so vehicles were very spread out, for some reason.)

Nukewatch are looking for volunteers in the Norwich area who have their own transport and are interested in plane-spotting at local airbases.

If you’d like to help, please contact:

War on Terror deaths

The post-9/11 wars have caused the deaths of over 3.5mn people through hunger, disease and other indirect effects.

That is the conclusion of a new report from the Costs of War project: How Death Outlives War: the reverberating impact of the Post-9/11 wars on human health.

Report author Stephanie Savell, co-director of the Costs of War project, says her goal is to build greater awareness of ‘the fuller human costs of these wars’ and to support calls for Western governments to address the ongoing suffering of millions of people in current and former war zones.

UK arms sales boom

After falling for two years, British arms sales using Single Individual Export Licences (SIELs) more than doubled to £8.5 billion in 2022, the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) revealed on 16 May. Over half of these exports were for countries rated ‘Not Free’ by Freedom House, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Türkiye.

The government only reports values for SIELs. CAAT estimates that slightly over half of UK arms exports are conducted more secretively using ‘open’ licences, which allow for unlimited exports of the equipment covered by the licence to specified countries. More info from CAAT: