Look Left – Fresh economic fears, internet freedom threat, and support for Syria’s rebels

Shamik Das looks back at the week’s politics, including our progressive, regressive and evidence of the week.


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• Mervyn King this week warned the UK faced a triple-dip recession, forecasting persistently low growth to the 2015 election and cutting the 2013 growth forecast to 1 per cent.

As Duncan Weldon wrote, the Bank of England Governor looks to have thrown in the towel on growth, with the weakest medium term growth forecast since the Bank gained independence in 1997. As this graph here shows, each successive reassesment of the economy predicts the recovery will take longer to take hold, with the UK economy now not forecast to pass its pre-crash peak until 2015. There was better headline news on the labour market this week, however, with the employment rate up (0.2 to 71.2%) and the unemployment rate down (0.2 to 7.8%) – though as Richard Exell explained on Left Foot Forward, with the looming poor growth an even bigger worry, serious challenges lie ahead.

It’s clear Plan A is failing, and with a poll this week indicating more support for Labour’s stance that the cuts are “too far and too fast” than the coalition argument, George Osborne will come under more pressure to come up with a Plan B.

• A new campaign to keep the internet free from state control was launched this week.

The International Trade Union Confederation’s “Stop the Net Grab” campaign launched in London on Monday. Its aim is to stop an attempt by the International Telecommunications Union (a UN body) to control the internet. The proposals to regulate the net are due to be discussed in Dubai next month. A coalition of governments, including China, Russia and Iran, is now seeking to give the ITU – and ultimately individual states – the power to control internet use, regulating not just the network infrastructure, but the internet uses people and organisations are allowed to make. As Tony Burke wrote on Left Foot Forward this week, countries would have to ensure the internet is used for “rational purposes”, and not to be used to “interfere in the internal affairs” of nations.

For more on the plans, which have been shrouded in secrecy, and the campaign against them, read our report here.

• The Syrian rebels received a series of boosts this week, both from the international community and on the battlefield.

The US has pledged an extra $30 million in aid, to help get food to those suffering inside Syria and refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq; the French government has officially recognised the new opposition, Francois Hollande calling the coalition “the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people”; General Sir Dave Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff, said the UK “could intervene” to prevent a worsening of the humanitarian crisis.

And, on the ground, the rebels have captured shoulder-mounted Surface-to-Air missiles, and have taken “almost all” the Syrian villages bordering the Golan Heights, with the Syrian army displaying “ever-diminishing efficiency”, according to Israel defence minister Ehud Barak.

Progressives of the Week:

Greenpeace, who exposed the anti-wind farm climate sceptics in the Tory Party – from backbencher Chris Heaton-Harris, grandee Peter Lilley and junior minister John Hayes right the way up to chancellor George Osborne, who is said to want to “water down” the Climate Change Act. See the Greenpeace ‘sting’ video and our report on the story here.

Regressive of the Week:

The Respect Party candidate for the Rotherham by-election, Yvonne Ridley, selected this week. Ridley, one of George Galloway’s closest allies, has a history of poisonous anti-Zionism, is a vocal supporter of Hamas, and an al-Qaeda apologist. See our profile of Ridley here for more.

Evidence of the Week:

Today’s report by the Bevan Foundation for RNIB Cymru that revealed a third of all those in Wales with a visual impairment are living in poverty, with just a third in employment – a lower proportion than disabled people as a whole. The report found a visually-impaired person with a degree has only the same likelihood of being employed as a non-disabled person with no qualifications. Read our article here for more on the disturbing, dispiriting research.

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