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    Gloria Elgueta's brother Martin was detained by Pinochet’s political police and held in Londres 38. Years later, a campaign is underway to turn the notorious house of torture into a memorial site.

    Hardly a day goes by when Gloria Elgueta doesn’t think about how her brother Martin may have spent his final days. He was detained by Pinochet’s political police and held in Londres 38, a colonial building five blocks away from their family home. After years searching for justice, Gloria joined other relatives in a campaign to turn the notorious house of torture into a memorial site to remember those who lost their lives.

    There’s one memory Chilean activist Gloria Elgueta will never forget of the darkest days of the Pinochet regime. Everyday for a fortnight she would walk five blocks from her family home in the centre of Santiago and stand and stare at an old colonial house known as Londres 38. The elegant façade belied the horrors taking place inside. This was one of Pinochet’s detention centres of choice: a place of torture and death. She suspected her brother, Martin, a student, was inside and there was nothing she could do.

    In July 1974, members of the DINA (Pinochet’s political police) came knocking on their door and, simply, took him. They never gave an explanation for the arrest or brought any charges against him.

    Almost immediately after Martin’s arrest, Gloria and her mother joined hundreds of others whose loved ones had been taken to unknown locations. It was a desperate pilgrimage to public offices, tribunals, and independent organizations, looking for help and information regarding the fate of their relatives.

    “We knew we had to ask – we needed to know. We went to the health services and the morgue, thinking that we would find him dead. It was a pretty much pointless pilgrimage because we didn't get any response regarding where he was. Everybody in authority would constantly say that my brother had not been detained,” she said.

    The first clue that Martin was being held in Londres 38 came from one of the few activists who survived imprisonment and been released.

    “We know he was held there for around 15 days. We spoke to one of the other detainees and they had seen him inside.  We think that he was there until early august. After that we didn't have any other testimonies from people who were held with him. What we were able to establish is that during that period, detainees were transferred in groups, killed and their bodies, hidden.”

    For many not knowing where there loved ones were or what was happening was a heavy burden to bear.

    “I know relatives who went to Londres 38 and knocked on the door - but it achieved nothing – they were threatened. One woman even went with a priest to try and find out if her grandson was held there but they too were turned away. Knowing your loved ones may be inside and not being able to cross that door - it’s just unthinkable.”

    Nobody knows exactly how many people were held at any one time in Londres 38. However, human rights organizations estimate that as many as 2,000 could have been detained during the time it functioned. At the time Chile was largely a country in denial.

    “People around Londres and all other detention centres knew that things were happening there but people were afraid to talk,” Gloria said to Amnesty International. “There was a very clear fear amongst most people. My mother, , would talk openly about my brother and what was happening and people would pretend they were not listening.”

    While the whereabouts of most of those detained are still unknown. Some did survive. Martin’s arrest was the second time her family had been targeted.

    Two months before Martin was arrested, Gloria’s older brother, Raimundo, was also taken by the military and held because he had allegedly broken the country’s strict curfew. He was eventually released in November 1976 having survived torture and ill treatment. But for Gloria - not a day goes by when she doesn’t think about the fate of her brother Martin.

    “I think the worse thing is the still not knowing. Even after 39 years we still do not know what happened to my brother. You think about the violence he may have suffered, his death, not knowing, not having all the information is something very complex for me. But the most difficult thing is the lack of justice in Chile.”

    Gloria believes that even though some positive steps were taken in the past few years to ensure those responsible for the thousands of killings, disappearances and torture during Pinochet’s regime face justice, impunity is still the norm.

    Her and her family still ignore what happened to Martin and where his remains are. No one faced justice for the crimes he suffered.

    “I think the result of the search for real justice is failing. What we know is very general; we don't know the truth about each individual case. We know that they are missing and that they were killed but the full information required by the courts to establish who was responsible is lacking. There’s a veil of secrecy around all of that, facilitated by a lot of complicity. Even now we know there are archives of information about those cases.”

    Since Pinochet was ousted in 1990, the notorious colonial building of Londres 38 has been turned into a fitting memorial for those who were tortured and lost their lives.

    “It’s important to me and the other relatives of those detained in Londres 38 that they are not forgotten. By making this into a memorial it’s a way to turn the dreadful repression, persecution and horror of what happened into something positive. It’s a chance to turn our experiences into something we can share with others.”

    This article is republished in partnership with Amnesty International


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    No convincing plan as yet.

    The rupee is in trouble. Though its strength has mildly improved today (67.37 against the US dollar today from 68.4 on Wednesday evening) it is now one of the worst performing currencies among developing countries. Not long before, as Deutsche Bank recently predicted, the rupee touches 70 against the dollar. Does not seem long at all.

    The Indian stock market has tanked. The financial markets seem to have gone into panic mode. Foreign investors have already sold almost $1 billion of Indian shares in the eight sessions through Tuesday and now Syria, with its increasing crude oil prices and the growing fear of a possible US-led military strike against it, has spooked investors further into believing that India’s already large current account deficit (CAD) may be escalating.

    As global prices of India’s two biggest exports – gold alongside oil - surge this week, the strong demand for the dollar from banks and importers, mainly oil refiners, is putting additional strains on the rupee.

    The US Fed policy, Ben Bernanke’s plans to start quantitative easing by end-2013 and the West in general coming out of recession have definitely hit all emerging markets hard. Ahead of the Fed’s anticipated tightening, currencies in not only India, but also Indonesia and Brazil, among others, have dropped.

    It is expected that when the tapering begins, developed market stocks, bonds and currencies will be most preferred. According to Kevin Gardiner, CIO Europe, Barclays, a world in which monetary policy is normalising, decade-long flow of funds out of developed and into emerging markets slows and even reverses for a while.

    But the rupees plight today cannot be blamed just on external factors. There are more home-grown reasons as to why, among risky emerging markets, India is being viewed as the riskiest. 

    In India, the high CAD is a massive problem. Foreign provisional investments are used to fill the massive CAD, but that’s not a real solution. There is also a huge imbalance between the imports and exports – the former having risen substantially, widening the CAD further. The rising import bill (arising out of gold, which contributes to over 10 per cent of the total bill) has not helped either.

    Also, India’s economic boom has been of a peculiar, even lopsided kind. When the money was flowing in, the country’s progress actually deepened the gap between the rich and the poor.

    During its economic highs, the growth in the Indian market was largely sector and strata specific. It was the construction companies and the real estate sector, for instance, which truly profited. The IT sector grew exponentially too. But the general boom did not essentially create a larger, multi-tiered job market, to benefit the grass root level. The rise hasn’t been bottom-upwards.

    Being one of the poorest countries in the world, the problem is with the basics. Power supply issues, poor infrastructure, lack of education, land problems and just generally oppressive regulations are all keeping foreign investment out of the country. It is all contributing to the rupee’s decline. All this, alongside the huge social discrimination and disparities that are battled by citizens on a daily basis, bringing about further lag in general progress. There is also widespread corruption which is a key problem, unlike the developed world that hardly has lenience towards it.

    The Reserve Bank of India is trying to fill the gaps - true. To check the rupee's free fall, the RBI announced a special window "with immediate effect", late on Wednesday, to sell dollars through a designated bank to the three state-owned oil marketing companies – Indian Oil, Hindustan Petroleum, and Bharat Petroleum "until further notice". They need about USD 8.5bn monthly to meet daily foreign exchange requirement. The RBI previously opened such a window during the global financial crisis in 2008.

    The Indian government has also proposed setting up a task force to look into currency swap agreements. Several analysts believe this move could reduce market demand for dollars. Infrastructure projects worth $28.4bn have also been approved to try perking up the economy and currency.

    The RBI has imposed restrictions on the amount of money that companies and individuals can send out of the country too, as well as increased the duty on gold imports thrice this year.

    But the central bank has also been sending out mixed signals. After the rupee hit a low in July, the RBI had raised interest rates to tighten liquidity in the domestic market. That, however, didn’t help. This week, the RBI decided to get more cash into the economy by bringing interest rates down. Optimism around that didn’t last long in the markets either.

    Earlier in the week, BNP Paribas slashed its economic growth forecast for India, for the fiscal year to March 2014, to 3.7 per cent from its previous 5.2 per cent. Reuters quoted BNP Paribas saying India's parliament "remains toxically dysfunctional". BNP also said with general election in 2014 looming near, "the government's willingness to instigate a politically unpopular fiscal tightening is close to nil."

    It is true that the upcoming general elections are definitely another factor turning the rupee-recovery pools muggy. But one would like to believe that effective medium to short-term plans will be adopted fast, instead of constant ad hoc measures, for any actual progress to come about. Ideally, in the long term the problems will be tackled at the economic and societal foundations – no permanent recovery can be expected otherwise. For now, though, the RBI and the government are, clearly, yet to unveil steps that can convince everyone that the rupee can even be stabilised.


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    Alan White and Kate Belgrave give us more reasons why you don’t want the private sector in the NHS.

    One of the many concepts that free marketeers refuse to abandon in the face of all evidence is the idea that the private sector is better at providing public services than the public sector. Private companies have been cashing in on this fable for years at council and government level. As we file this report, another glorious outsourcing triumph is breaking: the Ministry of Justice has asked police to investigate alleged fraudulent behaviour by Serco staff in its Prisoner Escort and Custodial Services contract.

    The national news stories are coming at such a rate we can barely keep up with them. But what happens at a local level often slips under the radar. That’s why we’re crossposting and adding to this False Economy blog by Kate, which features a list of some of the many spectacular council privatisation failures of the past few years (hat-tip to Barnet Unison for the idea - they published a Top Ten Commissioning Failures list last month).

    The list below shows how much councils have spent to get out of private sector contracts and/or to deal with contract disputes and cost overruns. A lot of the companies featured on this and Barnet Unison’s list are sniffing excitedly around the NHS - to which they’ll doubtless bring this long-honed craft of getting heaps of public money, ditching service the second the contract is framed and delivering huge returns to their shareholders.

    Feel free to add your own, or send them through to us at thesecretcuts@gmail.com

    1) The Somerset county council and Southwest One dispute (via the eminently reasonable Barnet blogger Mr Reasonable)

    This row was over savings not made by the joint venture partnership that the council had formed with IBM company Southwest One. The contract was to provide back office functions and services for Somerset, Taunton Deane borough council and Avon and Somerset Police.

    As this Somerset County Gazette story observed: “Almost £5.5m of taxpayers’ money has been spent settling a dispute between Somerset County Council and an organisation it hired to cut costs.”

    Mr Reasonable reported: “The dispute has now been settled, but the process has racked up a huge legal bill. As revealed in a Freedom of Information request, the total legal bill came to more than £2.6m. The lion's share of fees went to Pincent Masons, but it was interesting to see that Barnet's lawyers Trowers & Hamlin were also in receipt of fees in 2011/12.” (Barnet’s lawyers are worth a mention, as they’ve been much to the fore as Barnet residents, bloggers and campaigners have fought Barnet Council’s own mass privatisation plans.)

    Somerset council cabinet member for resources, David Huxtable, told the BBC: "In this kind of dispute with a major international blue-chip company you wouldn't want to go forward with inexpensive lawyers."

    The BBC reported overall costs to the council of the debacle of more than £5m. Tony Collins reports at Campaign4Change that some Southwest One services will be brought back into the council and run in-house.

    2) Barnet Council vs Catalyst Housing

    Shambles-prone Tory Barnet council is probably worthy of its own list and will doubtless continue to be as it pursues its ill-thought-out and unpopular mass-privatisation plan. But we start a few years back, nearer the dawn of Barnet’s disasters: In 2011, Barnet council was forced to pay out about £10m following a disagreement with private company Catalyst Housing over a contract dispute over care buildings.

    This followed a very bitter two-year industrial dispute between careworkers and Catalyst Housing’s partner organisation the Fremantle Trust. The Trust cut careworkers' salaries by as much as £300 a month in a bid to “save” money and improve finances, but ultimately had to concede that the salary cuts and slashed leave allowances had not balanced the books.  

    3) Bedfordshire County Council and the exit from the HBS contract

    Still a loud warning to all in council circles. The outsourcing expert Dexter Whitfield investigated this in detail: In 2001, Bedfordshire County Council (BCC) and the HBS Business Services Group had a 12-year, £267m Strategic Service Delivery Partnership which covered financial, information technology, human resources, school support services and contracts/facilities management. There was also a loose notion of creating a regional business centre which would provide similar services to a range of public sector organisations. Unfortunately, a few years in, there was no sign of it (“no evidence of centre” Whitfield noted in his report).

    BCC was forced to pay HBS £7.7m to terminate the outsourcing contract prematurely. According to The Register, the local authority was "deeply dissatisfied" with HBS's performance and served a written termination notice on the company for alleged breach of contract. The Register also reported that Unison produced a dossier of evidence to back up its claims that the quality of the council's services had suffered, not improved.

    4) Barnet Council, again

    Once you start looking at Barnet council, it’s hard to look away. This one is about IT.

    Earlier this year, Barnet Council had to pay thousands of pounds for “emergency” IT services after its regular provider went into administration.

    The local press reported:

    “The authority has been forced into a costly interim arrangement with business processes firm Capita after IT company 2E2 Ltd called in administrators. Finance officers are now looking at how the authority can reclaim £220,000 in advance payments to 2E2, which passed a council credit check days before it collapsed.” (You could say this actually represented a slight procedural improvement from the council given that during another scandal - the council’s failed contract with security firm Metpro - it didn’t check the company’s finances at all).

    As the excellent Barnet blogger Mrs Angry reports, the council decided that the way out of the 2E2 problem was to give more than £72,000 a month to Capita to pick up the “service”:

    To get themselves out of a hole quickly, Barnet Council have appointed Capita, without any form of tender, on the basis that it was an emergency and they had already had discussions with Capita to take over the running of this service. This new contract will cost £72,595 per month.

    Mrs Angry also made this interesting observation:

    The Council states that they did undertake a risk analysis of 2e2 in January “using Experian reports” and that “the report stated the company was satisfactory”. However a quick check on the internet would have shown that suppliers have not been able to get credit insurance on goods supplied to 2e2 for some time and that 2e2 were handed a number of County Court judgements in 2012.

    5) Swansea city council and contractor Capgemini.

    A salient lesson in the importance of listening to staff, or indeed to anyone with any sort of expertise. Staff took strike action from the moment that Swansea CC revealed that it would outsource IT. The Register reported: “they warned that the move would lead to a less effective service and lost jobs.” Sadly, none of that stopped the council from cantering towards the inevitable conclusion - a conclusion that was so inevitable that even PriceWaterhouseCoopers was compelled to take the long view of the Swansea foray during a later analysis:

    Said Computer Weekly in 2007:

    Swansea City Council failed to apply key principles of IT management properly when it agreed an £83m outsourcing deal that is struggling to deliver anticipated benefits, a report by auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers has concluded.

    The council's original outsourcing contract with Capgemini, to replace back-office systems and create online public services, promised to deliver £70m savings over its 10-year life when it was signed in 2006.

    But:

    the council scaled back the contract to a £40m project a year later, predicting savings of £26m over 10 years. To date, it has achieved savings of £6m, PwC revealed.

    The Register quoted a Councillor Mike Hedges who said that after outsourcing, “the email system was so unreliable he has switched to using his Yahoo! account for council business. He said email notifications of shut-downs of up to 24 hours are now a weekly occurrence.”.

    6) Cornwall council’s mega-outsourcing deal

    Cornwall hit all kinds of self-erected hurdles with its plans for a mega-outsourcing deal with BT or CSC – and council leader Alec Robertson was ousted - before a smaller deal was finalised this year.

    Tony Collins wrote on Campaign4Change about the costs of the fiasco:

    The council’s own budget for the outsourcing project so far has escalated. An independent panel set up as a “critical friend” to scrutinise the council’s plans for outsourcing has learned that the costs to Cornwall’s taxpayers of planning for the scheme were £375,000 in July 2011.

    In March this year the “Single Issue Panel” members were told that the costs for the project would need to be increased from £650,000 to £800,000.

    The current estimate of the cost of the procurement process at the time of writing this report is £1.8m,” says the panel in its July 2012 report.

    7) Birmingham, “Service Birmingham” and Capita

    As large as it is unreal. We’re adding this one, because we don’t really know what is going on with it. There is a lot of confusion about how much the Capita “Service Birmingham” venture is costing, although people seem to know it’s costing a lot.

    The Birmingham Mailreported earlier this year:

    The venture, run by the council and private sector contractor Capita, operates the authority’s call centre, IT infrastructure, Library of Birmingham IT and support and the collection of debts and council tax until 2020. The arrangement was formed in 2005 with £55 million-a-year running costs. But costs were thought to have spiralled to about £120 million-a-year following a renegotiation in 2011 and the addition of extra services, including council tax collection.

    That story also said that “new checks will be carried out on Service Birmingham’s accounts amid complaints that councillors had 'little idea' of how much the arrangement was costing.”

    In an extraordinary statement which we trust is genuine (it was made close to 1 April), Councillor John Clancy said Birmingham City Council members were being “deterred from getting a grip” on the nuts and bolts of the “complex” deal because the facts were unclear.

    “Nowhere is there a clear, total figure for what we are paying and what we should be paying,” he told a scrutiny meeting.

    “The biggest issue is transparency, we have little idea of what is going on.”

    8) North Tyneside council and Capita

    As recently reported in Tim Minogue’s excellent “Rotten Boroughs” page in Private Eye, Jim Allan, the Labour group leader at North Tyneside council has been found guilty of bringing the council into “disrepute” after a standards investigation by law firm Eversheds on behalf of the council and its consultant chief exec, Graham Haywood.

    Allan expressed disappointment over social media last year that the council’s then-Conservative cabinet hadn’t investigated the risks linked to an outsourcing contract worth £260m with Balfour Beatty and Capita Symonds.

    He claims he was merely stating facts. As Minogue reported: “Part-time chief exec Haywood had told him members needn’t worry about the risks in the contract because they were the ‘responsibility of officers’. Haywood was previously chief exec at Sefton council, where in 2008 he helped negotiate a £70m outsourcing contract with, er, Capita Symonds. This year Sefton brought services back in-house after cutting short Crapita’s contract years early.”

    And as Minogue points out: “The report into [Allan’s] three tweets ran to 223 pages, took more than six months to prepare and cost an estimated £15,000. Terrific use of taxpayers’ money at a council seeking to make more than £21m savings this year.”

    9) And a recent big one: Sandwell Council to part ways with BT and end £300m contract

    Said the local Express and Star paper:

    Sandwell Council has been in a 15-year partnership with BT called Transform Sandwell, in which the company manages services such as finance, customer contact and communication. The current deal, signed in 2007, sees the council paying BT around £15m a year.

    In July, the authority told the telecommunications giant it wanted to bring its contract to an end, unless BT addressed issues raised by the council within 30 days.

    And today it can be revealed that both parties have begun to thrash out how they will end their contract by March next year.

    Those details will be interesting.

    The council was apparently unhappy with BT’s service and began dispute proceedings last September.

    Ones to watch (feel free to send others):

    There’s a growing list here of local and council services that have been privatised this year. One potential wreck is Capita’s new contract with Lambeth council. Undeterred by the famous failure of the ALS-Capita court interpreting service, widespread loathing of the company at Barnet, or whatever is going on with Service Birmingham, Lambeth council and Capita signed a nine-year deal last week. The contract is for, among other things, ironically-named “customer service support.” Time will tell whether the customer is first served, or Capita. Lambeth has cut tens of millions from its budgets in the last three years, too. You can see why people mutter that there is always plenty of money around for companies like Capita, if not for children’s services, etc.

    There’s also Cheshire council’s outsourcing of youth services. In July, Children and Young People Now reported:

    Cheshire youth services will be delivered by independent organisations in the future, following a local authority decision to outsource its youth work provision.

    We’ll be watching that - when you remove services from council, you remove a lot of the democratic accountability around them, as those of us who report on these things know too well. Earlier this year, we and families of service users were chucked out of a care cuts meeting when the board in charge of the service said it didn’t have to speak to people because it represented a private company.

    And. . .

    We might as well finish with Barnet council. Two major contracts worth (price tag varies) £500m with Capita. Service users hate it, residents hate it, staff hate it and local journalists hate it. This can’t end well. Or cheaply.


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    And is fuelling a whisky renaissance.

    "Moonshiners are united in a solid mistrust of the government", distiller Justin King proclaims. He’s the master with the secret recipe for Ole Smoky moonshine, also known as hooch, white lightning or, as the industry calls it, unaged corn whisky.

    Diehards say the high-proof distilled spirit should only be called moonshine if produced illicitly, but the legal version, made from corn mash, is leading a whisky renaissance in America. And the mystique of moonshine is part of its popularity. Author and journalist Max Watman, who chronicled the history of it in his book Chasing the White Dog, says the cachet of illegal moonshine is the bit of outlaw it carries, yet without the stigma. 

    "You get to dabble on the other side of the law, but your friends, your in-laws, your boss won’t think badly of you for doing so," he explains. "One can show up with a mason jar of moonshine and get a little frisson out of that, take a quick detour into lawlessness without serious social consequence."

    Commercial distillers large and small are tapping into that. In the last three years, artisan producers in New York, New England, California and other states have been marketing their ’shine to sophisticated consumers driving the push for "farm to table" goods.

    "Throughout America, there are people who want to connect to their sources. They want to eat and drink things that are produced locally, by people they can name, people they might meet. This is true at farmers’ markets as well as liquor stores. That’s a driving force for small-scale distilling," says Watman.

    Another driving force for the entire moonshine market is the entrance of Jim Beam’s Jacob’s Ghost white whiskey, helping to define this new category.

    "It’s a local point of pride, a big part of eastern Tennessee family tradition," says Robert Cremins, a college student from Knoxville. Many in the region identify themselves with moonshine, Cremins says. "I grew up hearing stories about moonshine."

    In the land that surrounds the lush Smoky Mountains, with their towering white pine trees, moonshine — or whatever you call it — has a rich heritage. Neighbouring states also lay claim to the moonshine tradition, "but the one that centres around the Smoky Mountains is the most traditional," says Watman, who grew up in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

    "Some regions like southern Virginia clasped on to the historical aspect of moonshine to try to promote it, but it hasn’t become as central to the character of the region as it has with the Smoky Mountains. In eastern Tennessee and the Smokies, you find people who respect the production of moonshine as a craft and its folkloric traditions. That’s what’s different about it."

    That history has even been memorialised in Rocky Top, one of Tennessee’s state songs, which references moonshine stills hidden in the hills. But until four years ago, tough laws made it virtually impossible for distillers outside three counties to get a licence for alcohol production. Entrepreneur Jim Massey acted as an independent lobbyist to change the law in 2009, making it easier for small distillers to enter the market.

    "It was less about alcohol production and more about a business we’re famous for, that we have a competitive advantage in,’ Massey says. His efforts were well-timed, coming as Tennessee and other states were looking for ways to generate taxable revenue and job growth to fight the recession.

    Joe Baker, a criminal lawyer who traces his roots to the earliest settlers of eastern Tennessee, corralled two lawyer buddies to open the Ole Smoky distillery in Gatlinburg. Most of the town’s 4,000 residents earn their living from the tourists who come for the Smoky Mountains and the endless fudge shops. 

    "I thought it would be cool if we could do something involving moonshine and tourism and share this heritage,’ Baker says. ‘We have an incredibly rich history with making liquor, and a lot of it stems from the land and the geography. It’s an important part of who we are.’ Baker’s own family moonshine recipe is 200 years old.

    Of course, moonshine has long been important to the local economy. The forested mountains were a canopy for Baker’s ancestors and other moonshine distillers who made their home in the Smokies. Many of them were immigrants from Scotland and Ireland who settled in the area for its familiar terrain, well before the mountains were named a national park. Undocumented rumours have it that Al Capone used to store his liquor in the Smokies during prohibition before transporting it to Chicago.

    Ole Smoky’s distiller Justin King says that beyond a traditional recipe, families also made a flavoured moonshine called Apple Pie, a more palatable version: "Every east Tennessean has their own version of Apple Pie moonshine, what it tastes like, what proof it is." The recipe is basically cinnamon, apple juice, apple cider and a few spices — it tastes like a sweet after-dinner drink. The flavouring extends to other locally grown fruits, like cherries or peaches soaked in moonshine, King says.

    "For Christmas, my family always used to give out moonshine cherries," he says. "A lot of people down here are poor, so to give a jar of moonshine cherries or peaches was a nice thing. Any fruit we could find, we would use."

    That connection between farmers and distillers is still thriving and has helped many battle the recession, says Max Watman. "It’s a market that’s very focused on staying local. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard about peach farmers’ crops being knocked down by a storm and the local distillery buying up that fallen crop because they don’t care what the peaches look like."

    Baker sources his corn locally and employs more than 150 people. And there are tangential economic impacts — such as the glass jars and paper labels he buys for his spirits from local producers and the truck drivers paid to deliver the goods. The packaging is decidedly simple: glass mason jars, in which moonshine was traditionally served, celebrating the ritual of ‘passing the jar’ round at gatherings of family and friends. 

    As for Baker’s hopes to marry tourism with moonshine heritage, the proof is in the dozens of tourists sitting in rocking chairs outside Ole Smoky’s bottle shop on Gatlinburg’s main street, toe-tapping to the daily bluegrass band — no purchase necessary. Inside, hordes of people crowd the tasting room. Baker has created one of America’s most visited distilleries, distributing to 49 states.

    For moonshine proponents such as Massey, Ole Smoky’s success is the ultimate payoff. "Just look at Ole Smoky,’ he says. "They have more tourists coming through their craft distillery than Jack Daniel’s in Lynchburg."

    Amy Guttman is a writer at Spears. This piece first appeared in Spear's Magazine.


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    The party opposes intervention in Syria and elsewhere but still wants to increase the defence budget by £17.4bn to £50bn.

    While it remains to be seen what position Labour will take on military action Syria once the UN weapons inspectors have reported, one party has already declared its unconditional opposition to intervention: UKIP. 

    Farage's men have sent out a van emblazoned with the words: "UKIP says NO to war in Syria. Stop defence cuts at home, fighting foreign wars and causing misery abroad". In response, the Economist's Daniel Knowles asks, "Given that Ukip are so keen that we shouldn't get involved in foreign wars, why do they want to stop defence cuts?" It's a good question.

    The defence section on the party's website states that it wants to increase total spendng to £50bn in 2016, £17.4bn more than planned by the government (£32.6bn). But with the party pledged to disband the Ministry of Defence "in order to reform it as a streamlined ministry", cancel the replacement of Trident and remove foreign military aid (£4bn) from the budget, what does it intend to spend the inflated sum on? 

    It promises "an initial 5 year capital expenditure programme" of £10 bn to restore "threatened items including army manpower, armour, fighters, advanced surveillance platforms, the second aircraft carrier and major surface combat vessels", which seems rather extravagant if there's little prospect of them being used (at least in the absence of an invasion of Gibraltar or the Falklands). 

    Unless UKIP knows something we don't. Is an EU rebel force heading across the Channel? We should be told. 


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    The top 5, deconstructed.

    Over the last few years there has been a trend for small and medium sized businesses to adopt cloud accounting software over longstanding legacy solutions. In simple terms, this allows for business owners to access their accounting data online as opposed to it being stored remotely and/or backed up with an external storage solution.

    The main benefit of cloud software for business owners is that they can access their financial data anywhere that has an internet connection. Additionally, some of the cloud accounting software products are also accessible on tablet and mobile devices, and can allow the business owner to carry out tasks such as bank reconciliations whilst they are on the move.

    The benefit of accountancy firms adopting cloud software is that both the accountant and business owner can access data in real time. This eliminates a lot of unnecessary data reproduction, and creates an ongoing dialogue between the business owner and accountant. This results in the business owner being more engaged with the financial performance of their business, and allows for accountancy firms to upsell additional services.

    Entrepreneurial accounting firms are reacting to these changes in the marketplace by moving away from a compliance based offering, and refocusing their businesses towards adding tangible value to clients.

    Below is a snapshot of some of the leading products on the market:
     

    Xero

    Market Size: 193,000+. Over 22,000 of these are in the UK.
    Online Filing: VAT.
    Add Ons: Receipt Bank (converts receipts into data), Vend (inventory management), Wofklow Max (job time and invoice management). The full list can be viewed at www.xero.com/uk/add-ons 
    Bank Feeds: Direct feeds from HSBC and Yodlee (third party app which allows download of data from most banks)
    Business Development Features: When a firm signs up more than five clients they achieve “bronze status” and are added to a central repository of accounting firms which use the software.
    Industry Accreditation: ICAEW

    Xero is one of the innovators in the cloud accounting space. The company was founded 2006, and is listed on the New Zealand stock exchange. The software also has a personal finance feature. Their UK office is based in Milton Keynes, and has been undergoing rapid expansion. UK growth has doubled year on year for the last three years.

    Clear Books

    Market Size: 10,000+, the majority of which are UK based. Around half of these are paying customers. Over 200 users are accounting partners (predominantly sole practitioners and small firms).
    Online Filing: VAT, RTI (through Clear Books’ Open Payroll software)
    Add Ons: Receipt Bank, Keebo (receipt and invoicing), Capsule (CRM integration).
    Bank Feeds: Yodlee. Customers can also manually add bank statements as a CSV file through an easy import feature.
    Business Development Features: Partner accountants are invited to list themselves in Clear Books’ public directory. SME customers are also encouraged to connect with accountants signed up to the software.
    Industry Accreditation: ICAEW and ICB (Institute of Chartered Bookkeepers)

    The typical profile of customers consists of businesses which are sole traders and startups, with up to £10 million in revenue. The company is working on developing the practice management feature of their software, in order to give accounting partners more control over their businesses. Customers brought in through accounting partners are offered discounted pricing.

    FreeAgent

    Market Size: 30,000+. Primarily caters to the UK market but the software has users based in over 80 countries globally.
    Online Filing: VAT and RTI.
    Add Ons: Receipt Bank, Stripe (payment processing software), Float (online financial forecasting). The full list can be viewed at www.freeagent.com/developers/goodies 
    Bank Feeds: Direct feeds from Barclays, Yodlee.
    Business Development Features: FreeAgent accredited practices are added to the company’s centralized repository of qualifying practices.
    Industry Accreditation: None at present.

    FreeAgent’s customer niche is freelancers, contractors and other small service-based businesses. The software is also sold to accountants through IRIS, under the brand name IRIS OpenBooks. The Edinburgh based company have a small US office to cater to the needs of their growing Stateside user base.

    Kashflow 

    Market Size: Over 20,000 customers, the majority of which are UK based. The software is also popular in South Africa.
    Online Filing: VAT. CIS filings are due to be introduced soon.
    Add Ons: Receipt Bank, Stripe, MailChimp (email marketing). The full list can be viewed at www.kashflow.com/add-ons .
    Bank Feeds: None at present. Duane Jackson (founder and CEO) has been outspoken in his views against them. Business Development Features:Kashflow Orbit acts as a practice management tool. There is also a “Find An Accountant” feature which drives new business to accountants. Around half of all customers signed up are linked to a partner accountant.
    Industry Accreditation: ICB (pending).

    The software’s typical customer is an owner managed business with turnover below £500,000. KashFlow claim to be the first company to come to market with a cloud accounting package. This means that they have a large ecosystem of partners but also that the underlying technology of the software may date faster. They are addressing the latter by refreshing their product over the next few months.

    Crunch 

    Market Size: 4,000+ clients. Crunch differs to other pieces of cloud accounting software in that the company acts as an all in one accounting solution by providing clients with software, as well access to their accounting staff.
    Online Filing: Corporation tax, VAT and RTI.
    Add Ons: Receipt Bank, Tripcatcher (expenses). The company are in the process of building out their API so more services are due to be integrated soon.
    Bank Feeds: Clients can pull in their data through Crunch’s Bankbolt service. The service is does not require clients to hand in their log in details to a third-party service, which arguably makes it more secure than other solutions market.
    Business Development Features: None. The software’s end user is small business owners who are seeking an all in one accounting solution.
    Industry Accreditation: None. Crunch’s accounting firm is AAT, ACCA and PCG accredited.

    The client base has a heavy focus towards freelancers, IT contractors and SMEs up to ten people. Crunch is directly in competition with accounting firms by providing a one stop outsourced finance function to clients. The company view this as one of their strengths as it allows them to not be beholden to a third party development road map, and means that they can tailor their software to the needs of their clients.

    Nick Levine

    This piece first appeared on economia .


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    That migrants are often happy to work in scandalous conditions doesn't prove British workers are “wet behind the ears”, it proves we need to improve employment protection.

    “What uncouth toilers, in what remote corners of the world, sweated and starved to bring to some comfortable little householder in Upper Tooting his pleasant five per cent?” asked George Dangerfield in his seminal book The Strange Death of Liberal England.

    The middle classes have often accepted the necessity of both the British and international working classes “sweating and starving” for the sake of life’s little luxuries. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is only the latest member of the comfortable middle classes to expect, as if by birthright, foreign workers to feel contented working sweatshop-like hours to bring contentment to today’s equivalent of Dangerfield’s “comfortable little householder in Upper Tooting”.

    Like many others in a similar financial position today, however, he has a problem: British workers are apparently no longer willing to play their assigned role.

    Oliver has made the news a number of times this week, perhaps not unrelated to the fact that he has a new book out. On Tuesday he claimed the poor were spending their money on ready meals and large plasma televisions rather than on nutritious cuisine. On Wednesday he then lamented young British workers who were, he said, “whingeing” and “wet behind the ears”. He went on to unfavourably contrast them with their Eastern Europeans, who are apparently putting in 18-hour shifts without so much as raising an eyebrow. (Don’t bet against him wading into the debate on Syria by the weekend.)

    Oliver’s curiosity as to why the poor appear keener on dining out at the local chippy than staying in and eating rotten bread and homemade potted duck received a great deal of (largely disparaging) media coverage. This is as it should be, for as George Orwell explained in The Road to Wigan Pier, “The ordinary human being would sooner starve than live on brown bread and raw carrots. And the peculiar evil is this, that the less money you have, the less inclined you feel to spend it on wholesome food.”

    But yesterday’s comments by Oliver on the apparent lethargy of the British working classes are perhaps worse than his remarks about the dietary intake of the poor, for they reflect a view conveniently held by the wealthy that there is some mysterious virtue in people (other people, of course) being exploited by wealthy employers.

    In an interview with Good Housekeeping, the house journal of the suburban middle classes, Oliver claimed that young workers today needed to be able to “knock out seven 18-hour days in a row”. This he described as “a basic approach to physical work”.

    On the political right it has long been fashionable to knock migrants, either for not speaking English, for speaking English too well (and therefore taking all ‘our’ jobs), or for essentially being foreign and expecting more from life than a few pounds a day working in a Soviet-era rust bucket. Liberal members of the middle class, however, are equally apt to lionise migrant workers for putting up with exploitative conditions at the expense of their British counterparts, who apparently have the front to believe there is more to life than filling their employer’s coffers.

    As I recently wrote on The Staggers and as others have written before me, the white working class remains about the only group in Britain it is acceptable to disparage in polite liberal company. Throw in a few words about how brilliant foreign workers are and you will still be able to pose at posh London dinner parties as a bleeding-heart progressive only with enhanced credentials for your 'open mindedness'.

    What, though, is virtuous about being exploited?

    Oliver may well boast that when he was in his 20s “the average working hours in a week was (sic) 80 to 100”. The mistake is the corresponding assumption that the proceeding reduction in labour time and its replacement with leisure has been in any way a bad thing. As well as 100-hour weeks, for much of Oliver’s 20s there would also have been no minimum wage and prior to that no effective laws preventing employers from discriminating against disabled workers.

    Hardly halcyon days.

    Working 100-hours a week is what happens when employment protections are insufficiently strong and employers excessively greedy. The fact that migrants from developing countries are often happy to work in scandalous conditions in no way makes those conditions acceptable. It means there is work to be done in educating migrant workers on what to expect in the workplace, as well as in schooling them in effective union organisation so as to take a bigger share of the pie from multi-millionaire employers like Jamie Oliver. 


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    The Co-operative Group announced today heavy financial losses due to problems with its banking division. We answer five questions on the Co-op’s current financial woes.

    What losses have the Group recorded?

    The Group lost £559m in the first half of 2013, after writing off £496m in bad loans at The Co-op Bank.

    These bad loans are mostly related to Britannia Building Society, which merged with the Co-op in 2009.

    What other financial troubles does the Group face?

    Including the write-downs, Co-op Bank alone reported a total loss of £709m.

    It also faces a £1.5bn capital hole in its balance sheet. Regulators say it must fill the gap.

    Were these losses anticipated?

    Yes. Co-op Group chief executive, Euan Sutherland, who took over the role in May this year, said the Group faced "well-documented challenges”.

    He added: "My first few months in the role have been focused on putting in place the recovery plan for the bank," he said, but warned there were "no quick fixes".

    Niall Booker, the Co-op Bank's chief executive added: "The underlying issues in the results today are not new.”

    How does the Co-op Bank plan to plug the £1.5bn capital hole?

    In June this year the bank announced it had struck an agreement with the Prudential Regulation Authority, the bank regulator, to plug the hole, which includes plans for a stock market listing, measures to raise money from bondholders and the sale of its insurance business, planned for 2014.

    What are the Co-op Bank’s future plans?

    According to Booker:

     "We are now clearly focused on improving the capital position of the Bank... [and] at the same time, we have continued to lend, maintaining our focus on supporting our loyal customers, both in retail and through our continued focus on lending to small and medium-sized businesses."


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    Every time a high-profile rape case occurs in India, there is shock, outrage and protests, but nothing actually changes.

    Rape. Shock. Outrage. Protests.

    Now let’s wait for a few months to pass.

    Another rape. Shock. Outrage. Protests.

    Lo and behold, here we are again. Barely nine months have passed since the fatal gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman on a bus in New Delhi which caused global horror and outrage and prompted calls for India to take a long, hard look at itself. Thousands took to the streets in protest, Twitter went into overdrive, and the government vowed to take action, passing the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill in March – a move that saw token changes in laws related to sexual offences incorporated into the antiquated Indian Penal Code.

    And then it all went quiet for a bit, until last week when a 22-year-old photojournalist was gang-raped by five men while on assignment in Mumbai. Commentators have reared up, politicians are “aghast” and a number of Indians are baying for blood: “Hang the bastards!”, “Death penalty to rapists!”, “Castration is the only deterrent!”

    First and foremost: to fight brutality with brutality is not the answer. To date, there is no conclusive study that proves hanging, capital punishment or castration will act as a deterrent to further crimes. Conversely, if rapists know that they are likely to be identified by their victim in a court of law and sentenced to death, they are more likely to murder the victim, than to leave them injured.

    Back in December, any female Western journo who could claim more than a week’s stay in India scrabbled to pen stories of her horrific ordeal: the groping; the staring eyes; the horrible Indian men constantly after her flesh. Perhaps I was just fortunate, but in 2010 I spent five months traveling into the nooks and crannies of India on 80 trains and felt completely safe – even when I didn’t have a male companion as a bodyguard. Now papers are citing figures from tour operators to India who have noted a 35% drop in female clients, and reporting on women hiring bodyguards for business trips. But how does India’s endemic sexual violence problem compare on a global scale? Is it really the worst place for women?

    Police in Delhi say they have filed 463 cases of reported rape in the first four months of 2013 – more than double the number received in the first four months of 2012. While some recoil in horror, the surge reflects an increase in the reporting of rapes, and a healthy shift in attitudes – more women are coming forward and shedding their fear of stigma. No longer worried that their reputation will be tarnished, their chances of marriage will diminish or their families will be shamed, women are becoming braver. Sadly this is still unique to urban India, and it will take much longer to chip away at the mentality in rural India where victims are shamed, often subjected to further rape by police, and prohibited by village councils from approaching authorities.

    The most recent figures from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime state that India has 1.8 incidents of reported rape per 100,000 people, compared with 63.5 in Sweden, 29.1 in Belgium and 26.6 in the US. However statisticians are quick to trounce such figures: comparing crime rates across countries is impossible. Factor in police procedures, legal definitions and discrepancies in data collection and they are almost meaningless. For instance, marital rape in India is not a crime, and rural rape is rarely reported, while in Sweden a woman can report 300 occasions of sexual violence from her partner as individual cases.

    Over the last week, what has struck me most is India’s attitude towards rape and the hierarchy of rape reporting. The five accused in last week’s case have allegedly raped four rag pickers in the same area of Mumbai on previous occasions. Would the rape of rag pickers make front-page news? Would candlelit vigils take place? Would Twitter be flooded with calls for castration and hanging? Would the women be renamed Nirbhaya, Amanat, Jagruti and Dhamini? No. Of course not. The rag pickers, and the 19-year-old mother of two who was gang-raped by six men in Mehrauli in South Delhi earlier this week, aren’t of interest. But the photojournalist on assignment at 6pm with a male colleague could have been one of us.

    If reported at all, the seemingly peripheral cases are lucky to get a small paragraph in the corner of one newspaper, as did that of the 19-year-old from Mehrauli, along with a final line that states: “Both of the woman’s former husbands had abandoned her, after which she married Rakesh.” Why? A rape victim’s relationship history is irrelevant. As is the outfit she wore, the time of night she was out, what she drank and who she was with. Rape is rape and while the power to punish lies in the hands of politicians and police, India’s collective consciousness needs to change. And it has to start at the root level. Education about gender equality needs to begin at home with parents, and extend into primary schools. Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, goes into schools to educate boys about the inequalities women face every day. When she sits in front of fifteen-to-eighteen-year-old boys she gets wolf whistles and comments about her tits – the misogyny is already entrenched in the boys’ psyche. But when she speaks to boys as young as eleven or twelve, their eyes widen as they hear of the injustice of the number of women in parliament. “Get them early,” she says, “before they’re conditioned.” And adopt a multi-layered approach. Bollywood stars have so much heft in India, invite them to front Don’t Rape campaigns: play them on TV and in cinemas, paste them on billboards. Make the fight against rape something that cannot be ignored.

    In India fingers are often pointed negatively towards “the West” and the “western lifestyles” that young Indians are trying to “ape” when in reality it’s a shame that a western lifestyle isn’t encouraged. Men and women in the West grow up with each other as classmates and friends and live in shared accommodation at university together where, for the most part, they can experience healthy sexual relationships – something that would no doubt alleviate the frustrations of a number of young Indian men for whom pre-marital sex is forbidden.

    Finally there is the issue of the attitude towards the rapists themselves.

    Just one of many Facebook groups started in protest is named: Rapists are Not Human Beings: Either They are Demon or Monsters (who should be ‘hung or chopped publically’). Wrong. They are neither demons nor monsters. The majority of rapists are known to their victims and reported cases frequently cite relatives, co-workers and family friends – and as marital rape is not recognised under Indian law – husbands, too. So imposing curfews on women and keeping them indoors isn’t going to work. Separate ladies’ train carriages might protect women for now, but why should we have to use one? Segregation perpetuates the problem of men not knowing how to interact with women on a daily basis.

    Eight months ago Samira Shackle wrote in the NS: “Yet despite the protests, international news coverage, and introspection about rape culture, nothing changed. This was not the first high-profile rape case; it will not be the last.”

    Until a seismic shift takes place in attitudes towards rape, I fear she may be right.


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    The latest update to the social network is simply a helpful little line to make it easier to follow a conversational thread. In reality, it will mean that the clubby little chats of the great and good will be even more difficult to avoid.

    How Barack Obama got elected I’ll never know. With rhetoric centred around the repeated use of the word ‘change’ he somehow appealed to the Social Media generation. And if we know one thing about them it’s this; they don’t like change.

    You only have to wander into Facebook after one of its thrice-monthly makeovers to know that’s true. The kind of wailing and rending of garments you’ll see after a minor alteration of the network’s news feed hasn’t been witnessed since Moses nearly missed his print deadline for The Book Of Job.

    Now — setting aside for a moment the possibility that Syrian hackers have compromised the network in a peculiarly constructive way — Twitter has a social upheaval of its own.

    The principal difference between the two leading social networks is that while Facebook is unapologetically a platform for closed friendship groups, Twitter aspires to be The National Conversation.

    The latest update to the Twitter web client introduces a helpful little line to make it easier to follow a conversational thread. Hardly groundbreaking stuff.

    The thinking behind the (by default) blue line is to promote conversation. To encourage people to butt in to the conversations they see going on around them. To promote tweets that are engendering conversations over random shouts in the darkness. .  In essence, Twitter wants some of Facebook’s action.

    But of course the blue line is also a velvet rope. There’s an élite on Twitter as there is everywhere else. And, as they do everywhere else, they all know each other.

    Unless you regularly consult Wikipedia you can often forget that an awful lot of politicians, actors and broadsheet columnists — no matter how egalitarian their standpoint, are either descended from someone famous, married to someone famous, or used to fag for someone famous at Eton.

    On Twitter, it’s all too obvious that the cool kids all know each other. The national conversation is shot through with a skein of the great and the good chatting about meeting up later at one anothers’ book launches, or commiserating with one another about the hangovers they’re suffering after last night’s première.

    Those conversations could be taking place via email, or in direct messages, rather than constituting a virtual Mean Girls lunch table to which the rest of us aren’t invited. But let’s be charitable. Maybe all those cool kids are just too hungover to send emails. There are an awful lot of book launches every week.

    Twitter happily tells us that  “great conversations happen on Twitter every day” and that “they’re now easier to find and enjoy.” What they have become, in fact, is harder to avoid. The great school cafeteria of Twitter has been arranged to that we’re all in earshot of the cool kids table, all the time.

    There is scope, and I’m sure I’m not the first person to notice this, to exploit Twitter’s new conversation lines. For commercial interests to link tweets to give them more conversational ‘weight’ and float them to the top of more timelines.

    So, in summation. Ordinary people don’t like the blue lines because they don’t like change of any kind. The cool kids won’t notice the blue lines because they’ve always used Twitter as a conversational medium anyway. And unless Twitter are getting a kickback from the commercial operators that will swoop in to exploit the new opportunity, they won’t derive much benefit from it.

    If we were rational about social networking, the blue line would soon become so ubiquitous as to become effectively invisible.

    As we’re not, I doubt if it’ll last until the end of the Obama administration.


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    Politicians, far more than commentators, have a moral and a legal duty to proceed with caution.

    In his response to David Cameron's statement on Syria, Ed Miliband signalled that he was neither with the hawks urging US destroyers towards Damascus nor with the Stop the War protesters (addressed last night by Diane Abbott) declaring "hands off Syria!" He refused to "rule out military intervention" but also insisted that he would not be pushed into a decision today. "I do not rule out supporting the Prime Minister but I believe he has to make a better case than he did today," he concluded. Cameron needed to explain how intervention would affect Britain's wider stance on Syria (is regime change the de facto aim?), the UN weapons inspectors needed to report and provide "compelling evidence" that the Assad regime was responsible for the Ghouta massacre, and the approval of the Security Council needed to be sought (although, as he rightly noted, a Russian or Chinese veto should not be a bar to action). Until all of these conditions are met, it is too early to say whether military action is justified. 

    For this stance, he is inevitably being denounced as a fence-sitter, as a flip-flopper, unfit to be leader of opposition and certainly unfit to be prime minister. But in a political culture that too often prizes certainty above all else, Miliband's honest expression of doubtwas immensely refreshing. Many of the same commentators who have openly struggled to reach a position are now denouncing the Labour leader for his equivocation. But politicians, far more than columnists, have a moral and a legal duty to proceed with caution. How many of the 412 MPs who voted for Iraq now wish that they had sided with those who called for the inspectors to be given more time? 

    At some point in the next week, Miliband will need to decide whether to support Cameron's plan to take military action - and he will do so. But until then, who can argue with his assertion that it "is right to go about this process in a calm and measured way"? As he noted in his most important observation, "the basis of making the decision determines the legitimacy and moral action of taking action". Whatever stance Miliband takes, it will be infinitely more credible for being reached with patience rather than haste. In a repudiation of Tony Blair, who, in the words of the infamous "Downing Street memo", shaped the facts around the policy, he declared: "evidence should precede decision, not decision precede evidence." If I was leader of the opposition, I would want to wait until all the facts were in - and so should you. 


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    When we picture a sex tourist, we usually think of a middle-aged man. But growing numbers of women are paying for a “holiday romance”.

    They are called “bumsters” in Gambia, “Rastitutes” or “beach boys” in the Caribbean and “sanky pankies” in the Dominican Republic. These are the men providing sex in return for money or goods to women who want a holiday “romance”. The men are invariably from impoverished families, have little or no education and are sometimes illiterate.
     
    Over the past decade, I have been researching the increase in female sex tourism in underdeveloped and poorer countries. Most of the women involved are looking for attention and excitement but end up, often without realising it, being one half of a prostitution deal. Although a small number of African-American women travel to the Caribbean for sex with beach boys, most of the women are white, middle-aged or older and come from Europe and North America. They travel alone or with female friends and often have a history of unhappy relationships with men at home.
     
    Barbara is one such woman. In her late fifties and divorced, she travelled to Jamaica for her first holiday alone last winter. She had fantasies about sunbathing on white sand and swimming in a clear blue sea, but no plans for a holiday romance. Her destination was an all-inclusive resort in Negril, on the western tip of Jamaica, one of the biggest destinations for female sex tourism. “I got off the plane at Montego Bay and – boom! – there he was,” she tells me over the phone from her home town of Sheffield. “I have never seen a man as fit as Chris. His locks were down his back and his legs were like a footballer’s. I thought, ‘Why is he looking at me like he fancies me? I’m not his type.’”
     
    Soon Barbara threw aside her inhibitions and realised she could behave in a way she would never dare to at home. “It was like total freedom. Chris was all over me and I couldn’t get enough of that beautiful body. He showered me with compliments about my legs, my hair, how I smelled, everything. He even said he liked my accent.” Barbara’s previous marriage had been abusive and damaging, leaving her feeling “worthless and like no man would ever look at me again. Chris made me feel gorgeous and special straight away.”
     
    Yet this was the beginning of not a holiday romance but a commercial exchange between a relatively rich westerner and an impoverished “beach boy”. It isprostitution but often only the seller, and not the buyer, is aware of that. Barbara only realised Chris viewed her as a sex tourist when one day he told her, “No money, no sex,” after she refused to give him cash for a drug deal. Barbara, like many women who find “romance” in Negril, says she is shunned by men of her own age in the UK, “because they want thinner, younger women and for some reason can get them”.
     
    I made contact with her through a social networking site where I had discovered women exchanging views and details about longdistance romances with men in Jamaica. Not one of the women used the phrase “sex tourism” but most of them discussed how they had sent money to their “boyfriends” to pay an urgent debt or to rent accommodation in time for their next visit. None would give me her full name, because their friends and family members are not aware that they have been going abroad for intergenerational sex.
     
    “[Chris] moved into my hotel room with me and we had wild sex every night,” Barbara says. “At first he insisted on paying for everything, but after a couple of days he said he was owed money by a business contact and I had to bankroll him until it came through.”
     
    Barbara is on an administrator’s salary in the UK but one night in her $200 hotel would cost a porter four weeks’ wages. “Chris never got that money he was owed,” she says. “I ended up paying for everything and once, when I refused, he told me he could pick up any white woman he wanted who would be happy to give him money.” Despite this, she remained under the illusion until the end of her holiday that Chris was her boyfriend. She says now: “If he pretended to fancy me when we were together and just slept with me for money, does that make him a prostitute – or just a lying bastard?” 
     
    The markets for prostitution have expanded rapidly since poorer regions in the Caribbean, Asia and Africa have become popular with well-off tourists from the west in recent decades. Expressions such as “sexual paradise” and “fantasy Island” are bandied about and these places turn into notorious hot spots for sex tourism. In the Caribbean and Africa, a racist mythology prevails, with jokes about black male sexual prowess and penis size, perpetuated by the beach boys themselves because it’s good business.
     
    The stereotypical image of the sex tourist is a western man who travels to Thailand or the Philippines to pay for sex with young women and children. But in the past three decades the numbers of women travelling primarily for sex with local men is thought to have increased significantly, according to an investigation by Reuters. The practice has become less stigmatised and tour operators even add thinly veiled references to sex tourism for women as a marketing strategy.
     
    It is not just sex the women are seeking, though. Academic researchers often class women such as Barbara as “romance tourists”, as they usually believe the men they meet on holiday are in love with them. Middle-aged and older women with low self-esteem and a history of failed relationships are more likely to fall for the delusion. The most popular depiction of romance tourism is the 1989 film Shirley Valentine, in which the central character travels to a Greek island craving love and attention. Shirley was not a sex tourist; she wanted an emotional attachment.
     
    A film released in Britain earlier this summer shows something closer to the reality of female sex tourism. Paradise: Love is part of a trilogy by the Austrian writer and director Ulrich Seidl. It depicts the apartheid-like conditions at a resort in Kenya, where the beach boys stand in line outside a hotel waiting for a white woman to “romance”, while a security guard ensures they do not cross the physical and symbolic line that divides their turf from the plush grounds.
     
    That echoes what I saw when I visited Negril back in 2003. The resort town’s biggest attraction for tourists is its four miles of stunning white sand. It has a population of almost 6,000 and is host to travellers from all over the world. US spring break students arrive between March and April, and Europeans and North Americans during the winter months. In 2008, an estimated 351,404 tourists came, making up approximately 20 per cent of Jamaica’s total. Since then, the numbers have continued to rise, according to the Jamaica Tourist Board.
     
    But Negril suffers from high rates of unemployment and poverty, partly because of the uneven and exclusionary way in which the tourism sector is structured. Opportunities to work legally are usually limited and most of the jobs in the industry are seasonal, menial and low-paid.
     
    I was the first British-based journalist to write about female sex tourism to Jamaica from a feminist and human rights perspective. I found that westerners increasingly view it as a harmless holiday experience, and most of the articles I read before the trip reflected that. They concentrated on salacious detail of interracial, intergenerational sex and failed to explore issues of race, class and colonialism. As the headline in one British tabloid put it: “It’s not just the sun that’s hot when these women go looking for ‘Sex on the Beach’.”
     
    The beach boys I met in Negril were all desperately poor and vulnerable, yet outwardly confident and hypermasculine at the same time. One of them, Clinton, with whom I spent several days – during which he never stopped trying to get me to have sex with him – told me, when I asked why he “dated” older women only, that “if I take a tourist out and she wants to help me out as a friend, give me money and let me stay with her in the hotel, what’s wrong with that? Of course I have sex with them but that’s because I’m not gay – I like women.” I asked Clinton what he looked for in a woman and he told me: “I look for the milk bottles [white women who have obviously just arrived on the island]. Milk bottles that need filling . . .”
     
    Most of the beach bars advertise cocktails with names that are well-used euphemisms for a large penis, such as “Big Bamboo”, “Dirty Banana” and “Jamaican Steel”. I was on the island during spring break and Negril was thronged with young, conventionally attractive, bikini-clad female students – but the beach boys paid no attention to them at all.
     
    At night, in bars playing loud reggae, young men would pull older white women to their feet and show them how to do “dirty dancing”, by way of “introducing [them] to my body”, as one man told me. It was an unusual sight –women, some of them in their seventies, bumping and grinding with men young enough to be their grandsons and sucking Red Stripe beer out of cans.
     
    “I was sick of the men on offer back home,” says Linda, when I speak to her on Skype, having made contact with her through the same social network on which I found Barbara. Linda is a Londoner who runs a pub with her daughter. She has a “string of failed relationships” behind her. “They were all the bloody same. Expect you to treat them like God’s gift, treat you like you don’t matter and never consider what it is youwant. The men I have been with [in Turkey] are a damn sight more handsome than they are and yet treat me like they’re grateful to be with me – the bloody opposite of what I’m used to.” 
     
    Barbara and Linda are in good company. Each year, as many as 600,000 women from western countries engage in sex tourism, according to Escape Artist Travel magazine. (The statistics in this area are little better than guesswork, given that few would confess to engaging in the practice in a selfreporting survey, but the figures for men are thought to be many times greater.)
     
    There is, however, a growing body of academic study on the phenomenon. In 2001, the UK-based academics Jacqueline Sanchez Taylor and Julia O’Connell Davidson published research based on 240 interviews they carried out with women on the beaches of Negril and two similar resorts in the Dominican Republic. Almost a third had engaged in sexual relationships with local men in the course of their holiday, and of those 80 women, nearly 60 per cent admitted there were “economic elements” to their relationships but they did not think of themselves as sex tourists, or their sexual partners as prostitutes. Only 3 per cent said their relations were “purely physical” and more than half considered them to be about “romance”.
     
    According to the beach boys, there is little shame or stigma in selling sex to older white female tourists and some will claim that earning money this way affirms their masculinity. Female prostitutes, on the other hand, often speak of being viewed as dirty and having no value. The beach boys will usually control the sex act and will refuse to perform oral sex on the women, as it is deemed “unclean” in Jamaican culture, whereas their female counterparts do what they are told.
     
    I have never heard of a beach boy experiencing sexual violence or being afraid of the woman and having to escape. It is also rare that boys under the age of 18 are targeted or that women broker deals for men through pimps and other third-party agents. Unlike their female counterparts, the beach boys do not find it difficult to become involved in relationships outside their work; indeed, many of those I have met are married and have children, and are not stigmatised by their peers for the way they earn a living.
     
    Yet there is still a power relationship at play: it is the female tourist who books the flights and determines the length of time she will spend with her “boyfriend”, as well as making day-to-day decisions when they are together, such as when and where they eat.
     
    All forms of prostitution require the seller to flatter the buyer and to display enthusiasm for the transaction. Nowhere is the exchange so theatrical as the one between the beach boy and the female sex tourist. At the same time, the comments I heard in Jamaica about the women seen with younger men were often misogynistic and cruel – there is far more acceptance of older, obese men hooking up with conventionally attractive younger women than the reverse. One young man told me the white women he had sex with made him feel sick. “They stink, have rough skin and look like old dogs. No wonder they have to pay for a man.”
     
    A hotelier told me the women were “all ugly and fat. Men won’t touch them where they come from. I would be ashamed to be seen with any of them.”
     
    Female sex tourists can also discover that white privilege and economic power are often less durable than the privilege of being male. Some women who move to live permanently with Jamaican men are beaten or abused. “The relationship ends up sour and we have to intervene. I’ve seen some nasty domestic violence towards the white women who move in with their boyfriends,” Andrea Johnson, a corporal with the Negril police, told me when I visited.
     
    “They often talk about white women as if we are old slappers and have a laugh about how we are willing to give blow jobs when their own women won’t,” says Dawn, a regular visitor to Negril. “I used to think Derrick was respectful of me and really loved me, until I heard him laughing with the other boys one night. It turned my blood cold.”
     
    Dawn met Derrick on her first trip to Negril in 2006 and has since returned twice a year to spend time with him. Derrick is now 27 and Dawn is 30 years older. “I fell head over heels with him when we first met and he couldn’t get enough of me, but I’m not daft,” she says. “I knew he was as keen on my money as he was on me but they have nothing here and live like paupers.”
     
    Once a month Dawn sends Derrick £20 for food and when she visits the island she pays for everything, from meals, drinks and taxis to clothes and spending money. “What do I get out of it? A lot of fun, and a beautiful body and massive cock to have my wicked way with whenever I want.”
     
    Racial difference plays a significant role in the female sex tourist experience. White women who would never consider being openly involved with a young black man back home feel free to do so while travelling and often use this as an example of their anti-racism. However, the same women will perpetuate racist stereotypes of black men and often treat their “boyfriend” as little more than a servant. 
     
    The countries where sex tourism operates have fractured or unstable economies and often have histories of slavery and colonialism. In Negril, most of the hotels, restaurants and glass-bottomed boats are owned by Americans and the economy does not really belong to the local people. When I’ve mentioned this to the women I have encountered, they have invariably told me that they are helping the men financially as well as promoting anti-racist relationships.
     
    I have witnessed a clear denial of the power that money brings to the tourist in the tourist/beach boy relationship and how this creates a culture of dependency and exploitation. There is still a tendency to focus on the men as agents who exploit tourist women economically, emotionally or sexually, rather than being exploited by them. Yet there is certainly exploitation.
     
    And the problem is not confined to the Caribbean. In Bali, south-east Asia, there is evidence that wealthy Japanese women pay local boys for sex. Residents of Mtwapa, a holiday resort just north of Mombasa in Kenya which is popular with tourists from Britain and other parts of Europe, have reported instances of young boys being sought out, mainly by visiting western men but also by a small number of older white women, according to New Internationalist magazine.
     
    The sex tourism problem has become so great in some countries that there have been half-hearted efforts to reduce it. During the 2002-2003 tourist season, the Gambian lawenforcement agencies, in collaboration with the national tourism association, launched an “anti-bumster” campaign. Uniformed security personnel rounded up obvious-looking bumsters, shaved off their dreadlocks and began routinely patrolling the tourist areas along the coast. A similar initiative has since been tried in Negril.
     
    But the women travelling for sex and love are not being deterred and nor are the impoverished young men who have only their own bodies to sell. Our hesitation in describing women such as Barbara as “sex tourists”, and the acceptance of the illusion that it’s about romance and love, further allow us to justify a racist and colonialist view of black male sexuality. For the women, it perpetuates a view of themselves as worthless, because most of these faux romances have no longevity or honesty. For the men, it confirms that the legacy of slavery, under which the black body was commodified and dehumanised, is not far behind them.

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    "I do not rule out supporting the Prime Minister but I believe he has to make a better case than he did today".

    I rise to move the amendment standing in the name of myself and my Right Honourable friends.

    And I start by joining the Prime Minister in expressing revulsion at the killing of hundreds of innocent civilians in Ghouta on the 21 August.

    This was a moral outrage and the international community is right to condemn it.

    As the Prime Minister said, everyone in this House and most in the country will have seen the pictures of men, women and children gasping for breath and dying as a result of this heinous attack.

    I can assure members of this House that the divide that exists does not exist over the condemnation of the use of chemical weapons and the fact that it breaches international law.

    Nor does it lie in the willingness to condemn the regime of President Assad.

    The question facing this House is what if any military action we should take and what criteria determines that decision and that’s what I want to focus on in my speech today.

    And I think it’s right to say at the beginning of my remarks that the Prime Minister said a couple of times in his speech words to the effect of ‘we’re not going to get further involved in that conflict. This doesn’t change our stance on Syria’.

    Now I’ve got to say to the Prime Minister, with the greatest respect, that is simply not the case.

    For me that does not rule out military intervention – I want to be clear about this. But I don’t think anybody in this House or anybody in the country should be under any illusions about the effect of our relationship to the conflict in Syria if we were to militarily intervene.

    Now as I say and as I will develop in my remarks, that does not for me rule out intervention, but I think we need to be clear-eyed about the impact that this would have.

    Let me also say Mr Speaker that his is one of the most solemn duties that this House possesses.

    And in our minds should be this simple question, which is upholding international law and legitimacy - how we can make the lives of the Syrian people better.

    And we should also have in our minds the duty we owe to the exceptional men and women of our armed forces and their families who will face the direct consequences of any decision that we make.

    The basis on which we make this decision is of fundamental importance, because the basis of making the decision determines the legitimacy and moral authority of any action that we undertake.

    That is why our amendment asks this House to support a clear and legitimate road map to decision on this issue.

    A set of steps which enable us to judge any recommended international action.

    And I want to develop the argument of why this sequential road map is I believe the right thing for the House to support today.

    Most of all, if we follow this road map, it can assure the country and the international community that if we take action we will follow the right, legitimate and legal course, not an artificial timetable or a political timetable set elsewhere and I think that is very very important to any decision that we make.

    This is fundamental to the principles of Britain.

    A belief in the rule of law.

    A belief that any military action we take must be justified in terms of the cause and also the potential consequences.

    And that we strain every sinew to make the international institutions that we have in our world work to deal with outrages such as the ones we have seen in Syria.

    Let me turn to the conditions in our motion.

    First, and this is where the Prime Minister and I now agree, we must let the UN weapons inspectors do their work and let them report to the UN Security Council.

    Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General, said yesterday about the weapons inspectors: “let them conclude their work for four days and then we will have to analyse scientifically with experts and then we will have to report to the Security Council for action.”

    So the weapons inspectors are in the midst of their work and will be reporting in the coming days.

    That is why today could not have been the day when the House should be asked to decide whether to take military action.

    For this House, it is surely a basic point: Evidence should precede decision not decision precede evidence.

    And I am glad that on reflection, the Prime Minister accepted this yesterday.

    Now it is true the weapons inspectors cannot reach a judgement on the attribution of blame.

    That is beyond their mandate.

    Now some might think that makes their work essentially irrelevant.

    I disagree.

    If the UN weapons inspectors conclude that chemical weapons have been used, in the eyes of this country and the world, that confers legitimacy on the finding beyond the view of any individual country or any intelligence agency.

    What is more, it is possible that what the weapons inspectors discover, could give the world greater confidence in identifying the perpetrators of this horrific attack.

    The second step in our road map makes clear there needs to be compelling evidence that the Syrian regime was responsible for the attacks.

    I welcome the letter from the Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee today and I note the Arab League’s view of President Assad’s culpability.

    Of course, in conflict there is always reason for doubt.

    But the greater the weight of evidence the better.

    On Tuesday we were promised that there would be the release of American intelligence that there was proof of the regime’s culpability.

    We await the publication of that evidence which I gather will be later today, but that evidence too will be important in building up the body of evidence that President Assad was responsible.

    The third step is that in light of the weapons inspector’s findings and this other evidence, and as the Secretary General said, the UN Security Council should then debate what action should be taken and indeed should vote on action.

    I have heard it suggested that we should have “a UN moment”.

    They are certainly not my words.

    They are words which do no justice to the seriousness with which we must take the United Nations.

    The UN is not some inconvenient side-show.

    And we don’t want to engineer a “moment”.

    Instead, we want to adhere to the principles of international law.

    I am also clear that it is incumbent on us to try to build the widest level of support among the fifteen members in the Security Council, whatever the intentions of particular countries.

    The level of international support is vital should we decide to take military action.

    It is vital in the eyes of the world. That is why it can’t be seen as some sideshow or some moment, but actually an essential part of building the case if intervention should take place.

    There will be those who argue that in the event of Russia and China vetoing a Security Council Resolution then any military action would necessarily not be legitimate.

    I understand that view. But I don’t agree with it.

    Because I believe if a proper case is made, then there is scope in international law, our fourth condition, for action to be taken even without a chapter VII Security Council resolution.

    Kosovo in 1999 is the precedent cited in the Prime Minister’s speech and in the Attorney General’s legal advice.

    The Prime Minister didn’t go in much detail of the Attorney General’s legal advice, but it is worth noting that in the Attorney’s legal advice he has three conditions:

    Convincing evidence, generally accepted by the international community as whole, of extreme humanitarian distress.

    Objectively clear there is no practical alternative to the use of force, if lives are to be saved.

    And the proposed use of force must be proportionate and strictly limited in time.

    So the Attorney concludes in his advice, and it is very important for the House to understand this, that there could be circumstances in the absence of a Chapter VII Security Council resolution for action to be taken, but subject to those three conditions. And that is the case that must be built in the coming period.

    These principles reflect the Responsibility to Protect, a doctrine developed since Kosovo which commands widespread support.

    Additionally, the Responsibility to Protect also demands a reasonable prospect of success in improving the plight of the Syrian people.

    The Responsibility to Protect is an essential part of making this case.

    This takes me to the final point of the roadmap.

    Any military action must be specifically designed to deter the future use of chemical weapons.

    It must be time limited, with specific purpose and scope, so that future action would require further recourse to this House.

    And it must have regard for the consequences of any action.

    We must ensure that every effort is made to bring the civil war in Syria to an end.

    The principal responsibility for that of course rests with the parties in that conflict, and in particular President Assad.

    But the international community also has a duty to do everything it can to support the Geneva 2 process.

    And any action we take must assist this process and not hinder it.

    That is the responsibility that lies on the Government and its allies to set out this case.

    There will be some in this House who say that Britain should not contemplate action because we do not know precisely the consequences that will follow.

    I am not with those who rule out action.

    The horrific events unfolding in Syria rightly prompt us to consider all the options.

    But we owe it to the Syrian people, to our own country, and to the future security of our world, to scrutinise any plans on the basis of the consequences that they have.

    By setting this framework today, we give ourselves the time and space to actually scrutinise what is being proposed by this Government to see what the implications are.

    I do not believe we should be rushed to judgement.

    In the coming days the Government has a responsibility to build on the case it has set out today.

    I do not rule out supporting the Prime Minister but I believe he has to make a better case than he did today on this question and frankly he cannot say to the House and to the country this does not change our stance on Syria, this does not change our involvement in the Syrian conflict, because frankly it would and we all have a duty to assess it.

    Our amendment sets out a road map from evidence to decision that I believe can command the confidence of the House and the British public.

    And crucially it places responsibility for the judgement about the achievement of the criteria for action – reporting by the weapons inspectors, compelling evidence, vote in the Security Council, legal base and time limited and proportionate and successful action - with this House in a subsequent vote.

    I hope the House can unite today around our amendment today because I believe it captures a shared view on all sides of this House both about our anger at the attack witnessed on innocent civilians and also a coherent framework for making the decision on how we respond.

    We’re not going to be supporting a Government motion which was briefed this morning setting out an ‘in principle’ decision to take military action. It would be the wrong thing to do and on that basis we will oppose the motion.

    We could only support military action when the conditions of the amendment are met and if they are met.

    We all know that stability cannot be achieved by military means alone.

    Let me end by saying this: the continued turmoil in the country and the region in the recent months and years further demonstrate the need for stability across the region - to protect the innocent civilians involved, and uphold the national interest and the security and future prosperity of the whole region and world.

    I am sure the whole House recognises that this will not and cannot be achieved through a military solution.

    Whatever our disagreements today, we on this side of the House stand ready to play our part in supporting measures to improve the prospects for peace in Syria and the Middle East.

    It is what the people of Britain and the world have the right to expect.

    But this is a very grave decision which should be treated as such by this House and will be treated as such by this country

    In the end the fundamental test will be this: as we think about the men, women and children who have been subjected to this terrible atrocity, and we think about the prospects for other citizens in Syria, can the international community act in a lawful and legitimate way that will help them, that will prevent further suffering?

    The seriousness of our deliberations should match the significance of the decision we face.

    And that is why I urge this House to support our amendment today.


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    Vice-chair Michael Dugher writes to Jeremy Heywood demanding that Craig Oliver apologise and withdraw the "infantile and irresponsible" remark.

    After David Cameron's director of communications Craig Oliver unwisely accused Ed Miliband of giving "succour" to the Assad regime by forcing the government to promise a second vote on Syria after the UN weapons inspectors have reported, Labour has written a letter of complaint to Jeremy Heywood, the cabinet secretary, and has called for Oliver to apologise and withdraw the "infantile and irresponsible" remark.

    Asked whether Miliband was giving succour to the Assad regime, Oliver said: "Yes. The fact is that a lot of the arguments over this could give succour to the regime." In response, Michael Dugher, the party's vice chair, wrote to Heywood:

    You will have noticed reports the director of government communications Craig Oliver has described the leader of opposition as giving 'succour to Assad'. It is language which is infantile and irresponsible.

    It follows a pattern of behaviour by 10 Downing Street through recent days which demeans the office of prime minister. It is particularly disappointing given the serious nature of today's debate and the fact that throughout the country people will be listening with great concern about events in Syria, some knowing their relatives could soon be involved in military action.

    We ask that Mr Oliver apologises and withdraws the remark. In view of the public interest in this matter we are releasing this letter to the media.

    The clash is further evidence of how high tensions are running. Today's Times quoted one government source as saying: "No 10 and the Foreign Office think Miliband is a fucking cunt and a copper-bottomed shit." It is worth remembering, as I noted earlier this week, that not since Suez has there been a bipartisan split on a matter of peace and war.

    Letter to Sir Jeremy Heywood


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    Shadow transport minister said in the debate: "I’m opposed to military intervention in Syria, full stop."

    Rather than Diane Abbott, who addressed Stop the War protesters last night, it is shadow transport minister Jim Fitzpatrick who has become the first Labour frontbencher to resign in protest at the party's stance on Syria.

    No official explanation was given but when he spoke in the Commons debate earlier today he warned that he had "problems" with the government motion and Labour's amendment since neither ruled out military action. He said: "I’m opposed to military intervention in Syria, full stop. And to be honest with myself, and to be consistent on both questions, I will be voting in the no lobby against the government motion and against the opposition amendment."

    The significance of Fitzpatrick's resignation is that it suggests he believes Miliband is ultimately more likely than not to support military action. It also means it will be much harder for other anti-war shadow ministers to justify clinging on to their posts in the manner of Clare Short in 2003.


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    The PM is forced to rule out military action after motion is defeated by 285 votes to 272.

    Against all expectations, the government motion on Syria was dramatically defeated by 285 votes to 272 tonight. Amid cries of "resign!" from Labour MPs, Ed Miliband asked a visibly chastened Cameron to reassure the Commons that he would not use the royal prerogative to approve military action, he replied:

    Let me say the House has not voted for either motion tonight. I strongly believe in the need for a tough response to the use of chemical weapons, but I also believe in respecting the will of this House of Commons. It is very clear tonight that while the House has not passed a motion, it is clear to me that the British parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that and the government will act accordingly.

    In a competitive field, this is the most extraordinary political event since the general election. No prime minister on record has been defeated on a matter of peace and war; Cameron's authority has been incalculably weakened. With around 30 Labour MPs absent from parliament, it was his own backbenchers who inflicted this defeat.

    Labour's amendment was earlier rejected by 332 votes to 220. The irony is that had Cameron swallowed his pride and supported it (or incorporated Miliband's demands into the government motion), the possibility of military action would have been kept open. But after tonight's events, it has surely been closed off.


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    The names of the 224 Labour MPs, 30 Conservatives 9 Liberal Democrats and others who combined to defeat the motion authorising the possible use of military force against Syria.

    Below is a full list of the MPs who voted against the government motion authorising the possible use of military force against Syria. The motion was defeated by 285 votes to 272. 

    Alliance Party (1) Naomi Long.

    Conservatives (30) David Amess, Steve Baker, Richard Bacon, John Baron, Andrew Bingham, Crispin Blunt, Fiona Bruce, Tracey Crouch, David TC Davies, Philip Davies, David Davis, Nick de Bois, Richard Drax, Gordon Henderson, Philip Hollobone, Adam Holloway, Dr Phillip Lee, Dr Julian Lewis, Tim Loughton, Jason McCartney, Nigel Mills, Anne Marie Morris, Andrew Percy, Sir Richard Shepherd, Sir Peter Tapsell, Andrew Turner, Martin Vickers, Charles Walker, Chris White, Dr Sarah Wollaston.

    Green Party (1) Caroline Lucas.

    Labour (224) Diane Abbott, Debbie Abrahams, Bob Ainsworth, Douglas Alexander, Heidi Alexander, Rushanara Ali, Graham Allen, David Anderson, Jonathan Ashworth, Adrian Bailey, William Bain, Ed Balls, Gordon Banks, Kevin Barron, Hugh Bayley, Margaret Beckett, Anne Begg, Hilary Benn, Joe Benton, Luciana Berger, Clive Betts, Gordon Birtwistle, Tom Blenkinsop, David Blunkett, Kevin Brennan, Lyn Brown, Nicholas Brown, Russell Brown, Chris Bryant, Karen Buck, Andy Burnham, Liam Byrne, Alan Campbell, Ronnie Campbell, Martin Caton, Jenny Chapman, Katy Clark, Tom Clarke, Vernon Coaker, Ann Coffey, Yvette Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn, Mary Creagh, Stella Creasy, Jon Cruddas, Alex Cunningham, Jim Cunningham, Tony Cunningham, Margaret Curran, Simon Danczuk, Alistair Darling, Wayne David, Gloria De Piero, John Denham, Jim Dobbin, Frank Dobson, Thomas Docherty, Frank Doran, Stephen Doughty, Jim Dowd, Gemma Doyle, Jack Dromey, Michael Dugher, Angela Eagle, Maria Eagle, Clive Efford, Julie Elliott, Louise Ellman, Natascha Engel, Bill Esterson, Chris Evans, Paul Farrelly, Frank Field, Jim Fitzpatrick, Robert Flello, Caroline Flint, Paul Flynn, Hywel Francis, Mike Gapes, Barry Gardiner, Sheila Gilmore, Pat Glass, Mary Glindon, Roger Godsiff, Paul Goggins, Helen Goodman, Tom Greatrex, Kate Green, Nia Griffith, Andrew Gwynne, David Hamilton, Fabian Hamilton, Harriet Harman, Tom Harris, Dai Havard, John Healey, Mark Hendrick, Stephen Hepburn, Meg Hillier, Margaret Hodge, Kate Hoey, Jim Hood, Kelvin Hopkins, George Howarth, Tristram Hunt, Huw Irranca-Davies, Glenda Jackson, Sian James, Cathy Jamieson, Dan Jarvis, Alan Johnson, Graham Jones, Helen Jones, Kevan Jones, Susan Elan Jones, Tessa Jowell, Eric Joyce, Gerald Kaufman, Liz Kendall, Sadiq Khan, David Lammy, Ian Lavery, Mark Lazarowicz, Chris Leslie, Emma Lewell-Buck, Ivan Lewis, Ian Lucas, Fiona Mactaggart, Khalid Mahmood, Shabana Mahmood, Seema Malhotra, John Mann, Gordon Marsden, Steve McCabe, Michael McCann, Kerry McCarthy, Gregg McClymont, Andy McDonald, John McDonnell, Pat McFadden, Alison McGovern, Jim McGovern, Anne McGuire, Ann McKechin, Iain McKenzie, Catherine McKinnell, Michael Meacher, Alan Meale, Edward Miliband, Andrew Miller, Madeleine Moon, Jessica Morden, Graeme Morrice, Grahame M. Morris, George Mudie, Jim Murphy, Paul Murphy, Ian Murray, Lisa Nandy, Pamela Nash, Fiona O'Donnell, Chi Onwurah, Sandra Osborne, Albert Owen, Teresa Pearce, Toby Perkins, Bridget Phillipson, Stephen Pound, Lucy Powell, Nick Raynsford, Jamie Reed, Steve Reed, Rachel Reeves, Jonathan Reynolds, Linda Riordan, John Robertson, Geoffrey Robinson, Steve Rotheram, Frank Roy, Lindsay Roy, Chris Ruane, Joan Ruddock, Anas Sarwar, Andy Sawford, Alison Seabeck, Virenda Sharman, Barry Sheerman, Jim Sheridan, Gavin Shuker, Dennis Skinner, Andy Slaughter, Andrew Smith, Nick Smith, Owen Smith, Jack Straw, Graham Stringer, Gisela Stuart, Gerry Sutcliffe, Mark Tami, Gareth Thomas, Emily Thornberry, Stephen Timms, Jon Trickett, Derek Twigg, Stephen Twigg, Chuka Umunna, Keith Vaz, Valerie Vaz, Joan Walley, Tom Watson, Dave Watts, Dr Alan Whitehead, Chris Williamson, Phil Wilson, David Winnick, Rosie Winteron, Mike Wood, David Wright, Iain Wright MP.

    DUP (6) Gregory Campbell, Nigel Dodds, Jeffrey Donaldson, Brian Donohoe, Jim Shannon, Sammy Wilson. 

    Independent (1) Lady Hermon.

    Liberal Democrats (9) Paul Burstow, Mike Crockart, Andrew George, Mike Hancock, Julian Huppert, Dan Rogerson, Andrew Stunell, Ian Swales, Sarah Teather, Roger Williams. 

    Plaid Cymru Jonathan Edwards, Elfyn Llwyd, Hywel Williams.

    Respect (1) George Galloway.

    SDLP (3) Mark Durkan, Dr Alasdair McDonnell, Margaret Ritchie.

    SNP (6) Stewart Hosie, Angus MacNeil, Angus Robertson, Mike Weir, Dr Eilidh Whiteford, Pete Wishart.


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    News stories from around the web.

     

    Sinopec buys into Apache’s Egypt venture (FT)

    Sinopec is to spend $3.1bn on a 33 per cent stake in the Egyptian operations of Apache, the US exploration and production company, in the latest sign of Chinese companies’ higher tolerance for political risk in resource-rich countries.

    BP slams Louisiana amid oil spill recriminations (FT)

    BP has made an outspoken verbal attack on the governor and other officials of the state of Louisiana over their recent comments about the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and has been met by an equally stinging response from the state.

    British Chambers of Commerce: Recovery gaining momentum (BBC)

    The British Chambers of Commerce has sharply upped its 2013 growth forecast, saying the economy is gaining momentum.

    The business lobby group now expects 1.3% growth this year, up from 0.9%. Its forecasts for the next two years were upped to 2.2% and 2.5%.

    India's Prime Minister concerned about rupee's fall (BBC)

    The falling value of the Indian rupee is "a matter of concern", Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has told parliament.

    The rupee hit a record low against the dollar on Wednesday and has fallen more than 20% this year.

    Finance chief Pierre Wauthier's suicide note implicates ex-chairman Josef Ackermann, says Zurich Insurance (Telegraph)

    The former chief financial officer of Zurich Insurance left a suicide note implicating the group's then chairman Josef Ackermann in his death, the insurer said this morning.


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    Cameron's decision to take intervention off the table means Miliband will never have to decide whether to support military action.

    Until last night's extraordinary defeat of the government (the last time a prime minister lost a vote over an issue of peace and war was in 1782), Ed Miliband was facing one of the most politically dangerous decisions of his leadership. Having wisely refused to either rule in or rule out the use of military action against Syria until after the UN weapons inspectors had reported, he would eventually have had to come off the fence. Either position would have been fraught with risk. Had he supported intervention (as seemed most likely), he would have faced a significant Labour rebellion with further frontbench resignations (shadow transport minister Jim Fitzpatrick stood down in advance of last night's vote). Had he opposed it, he would have run the risk of being confounded by a successful operation. 

    Last night's parliamentary vote means he will now never have to decide. While there remains a hypothetical majority for military action (Labour's amendment would have passed had the Tories swallowed their pride and supported or abstained), David Cameron's decision to unambigously rule out intervention means it will never be tested. After Miliband asked him to reassure MPs that he would not use the royal prerogative to approve military action, he replied:

    It is very clear tonight that while the House has not passed a motion, it is clear to me that the British parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that and the government will act accordingly.

    Miliband could have responded by promising to 'work with the Prime Minister' (as Labour List's Mark Ferguson suggests) to secure a majority for Labour's stance: that military action should remain an option if "compelling evidence" is provided that the Assad regime was responsible for the Ghouta massacre. But in his post-vote interview with Sky News he instead chose to second Cameron's decision to take intervention off the table. He said: 

    Military intervention is now off the agenda for Britain. There would have been nothing worse than intervention without full international support.

    Faced with a hostile PLP and a hostile public (just 22% supported military action), Miliband took the escape route offered to him by Cameron. While some interventionists will despair at the apparent lack of principle involved, his political logic was impeccable. 

    "When you decide, you divide" said Blair upon Thatcher's death. Miliband's great fortune is that he will never have to do so. 

    Update: In his latest remarks on Syria, Miliband has made it even clearer that, for him, military intervention is no longer an option. He said: 

    There are other routes than military means to actually help the people of Syria.

    I don't think the Government should wash its hands of this issue.

    I think all of the focus of the Prime Minister and the Government in the coming days needs to be working with our allies to find other ways to press President Assad, to take action with our allies to put the diplomatic, political and other pressure that needs to be put on the Government there.

    We need the peace talks to get going. So there are other things the Government should be doing.


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    Our cultural picks for the week ahead.

    Film

    BFI Monster Weekend, British Museum, Friday 29 August – Sunday 1 September, Films start at 20:00 daily 

    Experience the British film industry at its best this weekend as the British Museum presents a trio of titles from the golden age of gothic horror. On Friday enjoy Jacques Tourneur’s chillingly realistic masterpiece The Night of the Demon which is sure to spook even the least superstitious among you. Saturday plays host to Hammer Horror’s Dracula, a bloody yet beautiful adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic novel. The festival concludes on Sunday with The Mummy– an unconventional love story that has enchanted young and old alike. The eerie surroundings of the British Museum courtyard and classic soundtracks will further tempt London’s thrill seekers to join the fun.  

    Concert

    iTunes Festival, Roundhouse, Sunday 1 September – Monday 30 September

    It’s that time of year again. Teenagers up and down the country will be applying for tickets to the iTunes Festival– 30 days of seriously good (and free) music gigs held in Camden’s Roundhouse. Global superstars including chart topper Ellie Goulding and the object of Miley Cyrus’ striptease Robin Thicke will take the stage alongside emerging talent Bastille and The Voice’s Jessie J. As long as Miley Cyrus doesn’t ‘butt’ in it will be a month to remember.             

    Music Festival

    The Zoo Project Festival, Leicestershire,  until Sunday 1 September 

    The Zoo Project Festival returns for a second year and promises to be bigger and better than before. Situated deep in the heartland of the British Countryside, within the woodlands of Donington Park in Leicestershire, TheZoo Project is an unparalleled experience. With 70 star-studded acts lined up and 16 hours of music a day unleash the animal inside as you party till 4am; a Safari Spa is always on hand to help with those head-throbbing mornings after.

    South Asian Festival

    London Mela, Gunnersbury Park, Acton, Sunday 1 September 1pm – 9pm

    Immerse yourself in another culture as the London Mela– Europe’s largest outdoor South Asian festival – returns to Gunnersbury Park. Crowds always flock to Acton to enjoy the lineup of British Asian music and Bollywood figures including music artist A S Kang and singer-songwriter Arjun. Foodies will enjoy the gastronomic delights from the surrounding stalls; with DJs, dance, markets and street art as well as a funfair it’s sure to be a family day out full of weird and wonderful experiences.  

    TV

    Bad Education, BBC Three, 22:00, Tuesday 3 September 

    Jack Whitehall bares all in his return to the big screen in the second series of the hit sitcom. Whitehall plays Alfie Wickers – the caricature of that completely useless teacher we all had at school – and in this episode alone treats us to comedy gold. From his unsuccessful attempts to lure a co-star who plays for the other team to being the object of the fascist tendencies of another, the UK’s poshest comedian will have you cringing the whole way through.  


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