Saturday, 28 December 2013

Review of the Year 2013

If 2012 was a year of remarkable financial scandals (Libor rigging, HSBC fined for laundering £300 billion for Mexican drug cartels) 2013 has been a year of remarkably scandalous governance which culminated in David Cameron giving an absurd "austerity to infinity" speech in a gold encrusted room in November and the Tories openly laughing at the "lower orders" for fighting over discounted food during an emergency debate on food poverty in December.

In early January 2013 I came across a scandalous piece of debt fearmongering entitled "The End of Britain" published by the financial magazine MoneyWeek. Over the course of 2013 the demolition job I did on their "End of Britain" article has become by far the most popular article on my blog, bringing many new followers from those that immediately scoured the Internet for a critique of an article that concludes by advising the reader to allow MoneyWeek to help them to become a tax avoider.

January (like most of the rest of the months of the year to follow) was a bad month for Iain Duncan Smith and the DWP. One of the many low points was the revelation that staff at one of the outsourcing companies administering Iain Duncan Smith's corruption riddled and hopelessly inefficient Work Programme had been referring to the unemployed clients they were supposed to be helping as "Lying Thieving Bastards". I made the case that the real LTBs could be found in Westminster.

One of the biggest economics stories of 2013 was the decision by the credit rating agency Moody's to downgrade the UK economy from the top rating AAA to the lower rating of Aa2 in February. The fact that the UK was hit by their first downgrade since the 1970s under the Coalition government is a damning indictment of George Osborne's extremist austerity experiment, especially given that the previous Labour administration managed to keep the AAA ratings despite being hit by the biggest global financial crisis in economic history.

Another hopelessly botched Iain Duncan Smith scheme hit the headlines
in February 2013 when his unapproved and unintelligible "Workfare" mandatory unpaid labour schemes were declared unlawful by the courts. Even though the ruling was very specific in criticising the "Workfare" rules as unintelligibly written and in criticising Iain Duncan Smith for exceeding his powers by bypassing parliament, the DWP incredibly tried to spin the ruling as a victory (one wonders why they chose to appeal a ruling they presented as a vindication of "Workfare" if it was the glorious vindication they dishonestly presented it as). I ruthlessly picked apart one particularly nauseating Iain Duncan Smith performance in defence of "Workfare" shortly after the ruling.

Iain Duncan Smith was quick to show the courts that he is in charge and can do whatever he likes, no matter the courts say, by pushing through a ludicrous piece of legislation to retroactively rewrite the "Workfare" rules so that they would have been intelligible at the time, had they been written that way. For some unfathomable reason the Labour hierarchy decided to let the bill be rushed through parliament as emergency legislation and whipped their MPs into abstaining on the vote. Here's a list of the minority of decent Labour MPs that defied the party to vote against this appalling piece of legislation. For me this delivery of a "get out of jail free" card to Iain Duncan Smith by the Labour hierarchy was one of the most spectacularly ill considered political blunders of the year. Had they fought Iain Duncan Smith every step of the way on this, they could have repeatedly exposed him as the callous and incompetent intellectual lightweight that he is. Having been let off the hook by the Labour leadership, IDS has skulked around in the political shadows to the extent of putting up the hopeless Lib-Dem Steve Webb to defend Bedroom Tax and the appalling Esther McVey to spout her repulsive rhetoric during the debate on Food Poverty.
David Cameron was caught out lying to the public on numerous occasions in 2013. Perhaps the most notable was his outright lie that the government has been "paying down Britain's debts" during a Party Political Broadcast, when in fact the government have borrowed an extra £400 billion since they came to power in 2010. It is now estimated by George Osborne's own economics quango (the Office for Budget Responsibility Recklessness)  that by 2015 the Coalition government will have borrowed £242 billion more than they said they were going to borrow in 2010.

March also saw a massive Tory assault on the justice system passed into law. The United Kingdom was condemned by human rights groups and legal professionals across the world for their introduction of Kafkaesque Secret Courts.

Thanks to this appalling bit of legislation (that shockingly few people even know of) it is now possible for a defendant to have their fate decided in a courtroom that they are not allowed to enter on charges that they are not allowed to know based on evidence that they are not allowed to see. Even their lawyers won't be allowed to enter the courtroom, know the charges or see the evidence. Instead the accused will be appointed a so-called "special advocate" by the state. Judges don't even have to consider whether it is in the public interest to use these new powers.

Defendants are not the only people to be hit by this. The legislation also applies to civil courts. This means the government can conduct secretive behind closed doors cases against the undercover police agent provocateurs that wormed their way into the lives of female activists, got them pregnant and then abandoned them completely as soon as their undercover assignments were over, and the victims and the general public will never know who authorised these appalling schemes.

In a rare foray into fiction on the AAV blog I wrote a short story about secret justice.

Just a few short months after using their parliamentary votes to pass Secret Courts into law (despite fierce resistance from the legal profession and the normally docile House of Lords) the Lib-Dem leadership decided to change position and begin opposing the Kafkaesque Secret Courts they had only just voted into existence.

One of the funniest stories of 2013 culminated with the conviction of former Lib Dem cabinet minister Chris Huhne and his ex wife Vicky Price for perverting the course of justice by lying about a speeding ticket. Turning one speeding ticket into two eight month prison sentences is an impressive  indicator of extreme stupidity. After his release Huhne was snapped up as a columnist by the Guardian making him the Neil Hamilton of the Liberal Democrats.

The first few months of the year saw a large grassroots campaign against a keystone Tory amendment to their 2012 Health and Social Care Bill, designed to do nothing less than enforce mandatory privatisation of NHS services with no consideration at all for standards of care or continuity of service. Despite an almost total media blackout on the issue, 375,000 people signed a 38 Degrees petition to stop the legislation (which got barely a mention across the entire BBC network). It was too little and too late to stop the bulk of the NHS privatisation reforms the coalition government have been pushing through, but it showed that the alternative media is capable of explaining a rather complex situation to hundreds of thousands of people and influencing them to support a petition against it.

38 Degrees weren't the only independent organisation opposing the Coalition government in 2013. Numerous religious groups, trade unions and charities have been dogged in their criticism, where the New Labour party and the mainstream media have been resolutely silent (or even complicit). A coalition of churches criticised the brutality of ongoing welfare reforms and the right-wing propaganda war against the working poor and the unemployed and the Trussell Trust (the largest food bank group in the UK) repeatedly stated that welfare reforms and benefits delays were two of the largest contributory factors in the rise in food poverty.

It is no wonder that the Coalition have put forward legislation designed to silence these few remaining pockets of dissent. With Orwellian finesse the Tories have drawn up a package of measures designed to repress and censor charities, social activist groups, religious organisations and trade unions and dressed it up as a bill to regulate lobbying. In reality the bill will allow the vast majority of lobbying to continue behind closed doors (since in-house corporate lobbyists have no obligation to join the register or declare their activities). If the bill had been given an honest (rather than overtly Orwellian) name it would be known as the "Silencing of Legitimate Political Debate and Protection of Corporate Lobbying" Bill.

The Tories have repeatedly claimed that these new rules are not designed to silence political dissent but their true intentions were made absolutely clear by Iain Duncan Smith's rhetoric against the Trussell Trust in December.

April 2013 was probably the most symbolic month to date for the Coalition government. In the same week that they introduced the hated "Bedroom Tax" and inflicted severe cutbacks on welfare support for the working poor they also cut the top rate of income tax in order to give an average £100,000 a year tax cut to the 13,000 UK based income millionaires. The combination of outright malice towards the "lower orders" whilst Cameron and Osborne lavished their own kind with tax cuts shows their outright determination to make the poor and vulnerable suffer the weight of austerity, whilst enriching the wealthy (including the reckless bankers that drove the UK economy off a cliff in 2007-08).

Yet another Tory attack that hit home in April 2013 was their massive defunding of the legal aid system in order to price "the lower orders" out of the courts and make courtrooms the near exclusive preserves of the rich and powerful, as they always were until legal aid provided a small amount of balance (even though the courts have remained absolutely packed with the privately educated offspring of establishment families). The element of fairness that legal aid provided was badly undermined in April 2013 and remains under further threat of attack.

There were three hugely significant deaths in 2013. Just weeks after gleeful right-wing celebration of the death of Hugo Chávez (the left-wing populist leader of Venezuela) the right-wing ideologue Margaret Thatcher died. My views on her toxic legacy are here and my article about the tide of right-wing "mustn't criticise Thatcher or her policies" political correctness is here. The other political titan to pass away in 2013 was Nelson Mandela, who led South Africa to freedom from Apartheid, but in so doing opened the pariah state up to the neoliberals, which has resulted in the continuation of mass poverty, only now enforced on economic rather than openly racist lines.

In April I came across a document produced by the American bank JP Morgan outlining their upbeat perspective on the erosion of democracy in Europe. Here's the piece I wrote comparing their current plans for Europe with their financial support for Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party during the 1930s. Later in the year the bank were fined a record breaking $13 billion for the fraudulent selling of dodgy mortgage backed securities.

In May 2013 Iain Duncan Smith suffered another courtroom defeat in which the Atos administered Work Capacity Assessment was found to discriminate against those with mental illnesses. Here's my article entitled "Can the Atos administered WCA assessment regime be considered psychological torture?". IDS then wasted a load of taxpayers' money by appealing the decision, but in December 2013 the courts once again ruled that the WCA regime is discriminatory. Iain Duncan Smith has stated his intention to ignore the ruling and carry on regardless.

May 2013 also saw David Cameron capitulate to the UKIP lobby by announcing a simple in-or-out referendum on membership of the European Union by 2017. It is not difficult to see that such a move is just a ploy to slow down the growth of UKIP, which has come about largely at the expense of the Tory party.

The fact that the Tories announced a referendum in four years time (conditional on them winning the 2015 election) exposes the brazen hypocrisy of their criticism over the timing of the Scottish independence referendum. David Cameron claimed that "the
uncertainty about this issue is damaging to Scotland and Scotland's economy". It's odd how in the Tory worldview this economic uncertainty criticism applies to a two year wait for a referendum on Scottish independence, but somehow doesn't apply to a four year wait to determine the UK relationship to the EU.

In July 2013 the Daily Express reported that "a
nation celebrated the arrival of their future King after the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to her and Prince William's first son". Well I certainly wasn't celebrating, in fact I took the opportunity to dissect the pitiful monarchist argument that the "Royals make us richer".

Fracking became one of the big issues during the summer after George Osborne announced a huge tax break for fracking companies. Much public anger was aimed at George Osborne's father-in-law David Howell for his comments about the north-east of England being "desolate" and "unpopulated" in the House of Lords. My criticism of him was more along the lines of "what the hell is a paid lobbyist for the fracking industry doing advising the Tory government on energy policy and using his place in the anti-democratic House of Lords to propagandise for the fracking industry?"

The Tories launched a sustained attack on trade union funding of the Labour party in the Summer of 2013 with David Cameron doing a lot of grandstanding during the fallout over the Falkirk debacle. The response from the Labour leadership was pitiful as usual. Instead of responding by exposing the dodgy characters that fund the Tory party (as I did in my rogues gallery of Tory donors) the Labour leadership decided to cave in to the Tory pressure and distance themselves from the Trade Unions. It is quite remarkable that Labour have decided to abandon funding of the party via millions of small donations through democratic organisations, whilst raising barely a criticism of the extremely dodgy crowd of tax dodgers, reckless bankers and corporate fat cats that fund the Tory party, nor their countless financial conflicts of interest.

As if the ongoing plans to silence legitimate political debate with the Gagging Legislation weren't enough, in the summer of 2013 David Cameron announced his plans to roll out a mandatory Internet monitoring and censorship firewall. The right-wing narrative is that it is necessary to monitor every Internet connection in the UK and censor perfectly lawful material in order to combat pornography, but the reality is a lot more sinister. Here's a serious look at the possible consequences of David Cameron's Internet Firewall and here's a satirical look at the issues.

In August 2013 the Tories sold off the NHS blood plasma supply to Bain Capital providing me with the opportunity to pen my best tabloid style headline of the year, which was "Tories sell UK blood supply to vampire capitalists".

In September 2013 the Tory front bench and the right-wing media conducted a rush to war. William Hague was one of the most vocal advocates for a UK intervention in the Syrian conflict, and he churned out a load of appalling war propaganda. He tried to claim that the only options would be to bomb Syria or to do absolutely nothing and derided anyone that dared doubt his interpretation of events as conspiracy theorists. That there have been atrocities committed in Syria is unquestionable, but anyone trying to paint one side as "the goodies" and the other side as "the baddies", as Hague and the Tories did, is guilty of grotesque oversimplification. The idea of British military personnel fighting alongside the Al Qaida backed rebels in Syria whilst fighting against Al Qaida in Afghanistan was enough to turn most people against the Tory plans for a war in Syria. Eventually the rush to war was put to a vote in parliament, which Cameron lost by a 285 to 272. This defeat made David Cameron the first UK Prime Minister to lose a war vote since 1782. 

The biggest story of the year came about after a private sector subcontractor for the NSA in the United States called Edward Snowden began leaking classified documents which revealed the astonishing scale of government surveillance by the NSA and their British counterparts GCHQ. These revelations resulted in one of the most appalling speeches ever made by a British politician, in which the foreign secretary William Hague trotted out the Orwellian "nothing to hide - nothing to fear" argument to justify the vast scale of data theft by GCHQ. As the leaks kept coming it became more and more apparent that the Joint Intelligence Committee (the panel of MPs charged with overseeing the intelligence services) had little or no idea of the scale of secret service activities, and that many of GCHQ's data stealing programmes had been initiated without the slightest veneer of parliamentary approval or oversight.

The extent to which David Cameron would go to protect the interests of the secret service spooks became clear when he intimidated the Guardian into destroying their hard drives containing their copies of the leaked Snowden documents, an extraordinarily hypocritical thing to do given his rhetoric about wanting to protect the freedom of the press. He then went on to call for an inquiry into the conduct of the Guardian newspaper, rather than for an inquiry into the conduct of the secret services and the appalling lack of democratic oversight into their activities.

David Cameron's assaults on the Guardian newspaper were indicative of a wider Tory campaign against the evidence. When the Trussell Trust used the "reason for referral" section on food bank referral forms given out by Jobcentres in order to show that welfare reforms were creating food poverty, the Tories unilaterally removed the section. When an alarming rise in the annual death rate was announced, the collection of the official death rate statistics was abandoned. The Tories have also spent the entire year battling against Freedom of Information rulings that they must make public the companies benefiting from "Workfare" unpaid mandatory labour schemes. One of the most high profile examples of this war on evidence was the Tory decision to purge their website of all pre-2010 speeches and pre-election promises, and to use a special script to prevent the Internet Archive from keeping a record of what they used to say.

If the Guardian deserve credit for their coverage of the Snowden leaks, the Daily Mail deserve condemnation for several things. They led the campaign against pornography that David Cameron has used as a "moral trojan horse" to justify his plans for a Chinese style Internet Firewall, despite the Daily Mail featuring the "sidebar of smut" on their website. A website that uses overtly sexualised language to drool over stolen pictures and paparazzi shots of underage teenagers calling for a clampdown on adult pornography is simply beyond hypocrisy. In 2013 the Daily Mail were also guilty of politicising child killing in order to attack the social safety net and then they launched an outrageous smear campaign against Ed Miliband's deceased father. The Daily Mail have really earned the description I coined for them in 2013. They're not a newspaper they're a "fascist hate comic".

The Daily Mail smear campaign against Ralph Miliband was quite clearly provoked by Ed Miliband's announcement the Labour Party conference that Labour would introduce a 20 month energy price freeze in 2015. The right-wing press weren't the only ones to react with outrage against Ed Miliband's populist socialism-lite policy - the Tory party went ballistic too.

It didn't matter a jot to the Tories that 68% of the UK public are to the left of Ed Miliband and support the outright renationalisation of UK energy infrastructure, they went into attack mode accusing Miliband of "price fixing" and "government interference in the market". Amazingly just a few weeks after this barrage of price fixing rhetoric from the Tories about Ed Miliband's plan to set a maximum price for energy for 20 months, the Tories announced a 35 year energy price fixing deal with the (85% owned by the French state) energy company EdF. In return for EdF constructing an new nuclear facility at Hinkley Point B, the Tories have agreed to pay them double the market rate for electricity for 35 years and ensure that all the financial risk of the project are borne by the UK taxpayer. 

One of the blog posts I enjoyed writing the most was the one in which I highlighted the Lib-Dem energy minister Ed Davey's disappearing press release from 2006, in which he stated "A new generation of nuclear power stations will cost taxpayers and customers tens of billions of pounds", which contrasts starkly with the pro-nuclear rhetoric he has spouted since becoming a coalition energy minister. No wonder he had it deleted from his website as soon as I started directing web traffic towards it.

In October 2013 the Tory led government sold the Royal Mail off on the cheap. I had a lot to say about it at the time as you can see in my "12 things you should know about the Royal Mail sell-off" article. It is worth noting that in the following months it was revealed that the Tories accepted a shockingly low valuation of the Royal Mail by Goldman Sachs, and that Goldman Sachs and their clients made enormous profits as the undervalued shares rose from their floatation price towards their true value.

October 2013 was a good month for Another Angry Voice. I passed 20,000 followers on the AAV Facebook page and smashed through the 100,000 page visits in a month for the first time, but it was another month of humiliation for Iain Duncan Smith
. First it was revealed that the DWP had wasted £40 million on botched IT procurements for his flagship Universal Credit scheme, then IDS was forced to admit that the real value of IT "write downs" was more like £130 million. Later in the month he was humiliated again when his "Workfare" mandatory unpaid labour schemes were once again found unlawful by the courts as his appeal against the ruling in March was thrown out by the Supreme Court.


In November 2013 Russell Brand hit the headlines after his interview with Jeremy Paxman in which he spoke about revolution and incited voter apathy. Here's my analysis of his much debated comments.

Later in November 2013 there was the energy expenses scandal. It was revealed that dozens of coalition MPs that had loudly condemned Ed Miliband's plans to cap energy prices had been getting their energy bills paid by the taxpayer through the expenses system. One of the worst offenders was the millionaire Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi who claimed £5,822 to heat his mansion and stables on his country estate. It's no wonder they're not enthusiastic about plans to combat energy price inflation given that they get their energy bills paid by the taxpayer.

In November 2013 David Cameron made his absolute contempt for "the lower orders" perfectly clear in his speech at the Lord Mayor's Banquet. He decided that a room full of gold encrusted objects and filled with members of the establishment was the ideal setting to announce his plan for permanent austerity for "the lower orders". The contrast between the wealth surrounding him and the poverty he was wishing to inflict on the poor and ordinary couldn't have been clearer.

The theme of wealthy Tories sneering and laughing at "the lower orders" continued into December. During the emergency debate on food poverty the Tory benches laughed at revelations that the desperately poor had been fighting over discounted supermarket food. Many Tories (including Iain Duncan Smith and Esther McVey) walked out of the debate, only to come back at the end in order to vote down measures to make it a government priority to combat the exponential growth in food poverty. The sight of wealthy Tory MPs laughing at the desperate poverty their policies have inflicted on "the lower orders" was a glaring demonstration of how out-of-touch and callous they have become.

The Tories and the right wing press have been desperate to create the narrative that 2013 has been a year of economic recovery for the UK, so before I get to the AAV awards I'd like to present a few facts to show how the Tory economic recovery is a complete fiction (unless you're lucky enough to belong to the super wealthy economic minority that Tory governments serve).

The Tories have been ever so keen to talk up the fact that the economy is growing again, although they are silent about their 2010 predictions that growth would peak at 2.9% of GDP in 2013, because the actual rate of growth that they have endlessly been bragging about is absolutely certain to be much lower than that.

The fact that they are bragging about such a low rate of growth as some kind of vindication of their policies would be bad enough on its own, however this weak economic growth illustrates how catastrophically inaccurate their economic forecasting has been (they were miles off on their predictions for 2010, 2011 and 2012 and remained inaccurate in 2013).

Another subject the coalition government have remained silent on is the fact that they have been borrowing billions more than they said they would every single month in order to produce this anemic level of growth.

It is also worth remembering that after over three and a half years of Tory rule, the economy has still not recovered to the size it was before the 2007-08 economic crisis!

The Bank of England have explained the 2013 growth figures as caused by a boost in consumer spending. However, given that wages have been falling in real terms every month since the Tories came to power in 2010, this boost in consumer spending can only be explained in two ways. Either people are accumulating even more private debt to fuel their spending, or they are extracting equity from their homes as their values are artificially inflated by George Osborne's insane "Help to Buy" house price inflation subsidies. Neither of these are good for the long term health of the economy, the last thing the UK needs is even more private debt and the inflation of an even bigger housing bubble than the last one.

The Tory led government have been bragging about how they have "reduced" unemployment, but what they have failed to mention is how they have managed to achieve this slight reduction in the headline rate of unemployment. Some 400,000 people have been stripped of their benefits under harsh sanctions regimes that target the mentally ill and the less intelligent, whilst leaving committed benefits fiddlers untouched. Then there's the tens of thousands of people a month that are being deliberately hidden from the unemployment figures because they are being compelled to do mandatory unpaid "Workfare" schemes, despite the fact that they are still receiving unemployment benefits.

As is the way with government announcements it is always necessary to look a bit deeper to understand what is really going on. To get a better understanding of the long-term unemployment catastrophe that this government is deliberately obscuring with talk of the grotesquely manipulated headline unemployment rate, it is useful to take a look at the official Labour Market Statistics. These official stats tell us that 106,000 youngsters (aged 18-24) have been unemployed for over 24 months, that's a 5,000 increase on the same period in 2012 and and increase of 55,000 since the December 2009 Labour Market Statistics were released. The same statistics tell us that long-term unemployment for all adults (24 months plus) has risen from 332,000 in 2009 to 444,000 in 2013.

Perhaps the most damning indictment of the coalition government is the fact that wages have shrunk in real terms every single month since they came to power in 2010, whilst the super wealthy minority have seen their incomes soar way above the rate of inflation (and bagged a lucrative cut in the top rate of tax too). The directors of the FTSE 100 companies enjoyed an average 14% pay hike in 2013 (on top of 27% in 2012, 49% in 2011 and 33% in 2010) whilst the average wage rose by less than 1% for the rest of us. The deliberate policy of wage repression in the UK have led to the longest sustained period of wage devaluation since records began and the wealthy minority have continued getting richer than ever against a backdrop of George Osborne and the Tories telling us that "we're all in this together".

It is absolutely clear that 2013 has only been a recovery for the rich. The Tories and their Lib-Dem enablers seem delusional when they brag about a recovery that the vast majority of people are unable to see, however it is perfectly understandable. These people are trapped in their Westminster bubble of wealth and privilege, meaning that as long as they feel richer (11% pay hike) and the businessmen and establishment figures they surround themselves with feel richer, they couldn't give a damn that everyone else is still getting poorer, in fact they quite clearly think that it's funny.

 The 2013 Another Angry Voice Awards

Hero of the year: Edward Snowden 

Given the personal risk he took in order to reveal the shocking scale of surveillance programmes in the United States and United Kingdom, there is no other candidate for hero of the year.

Villain of the year: Iain Duncan Smith

Iain Duncan Smith's callousness towards the most vulnerable members of society is matched only by his shocking lack of intellect. In 2013 alone he has been rebuked several times for misusing official statistics, been defeated in the courts over and again, squandered tens of millions on botched IT projects and continued his campaign of psychological torture against the disabled. There are plenty of repulsive characters within the Coalition government, but none of them come close to Iain Duncan Smith. One is left wondering what dirt he's got on David Cameron to save him from the sacking he so thoroughly deserves.

Politician of the year: Caroline Lucas 

Caroline Lucas (the only Green MP in parliament) has been absolutely tireless in her fight for social justice. She has been one of the leading voices of dissent on countless issues from the backdoor privatisation of the NHS to fracking. You only need to look at her voting record in parliament to see that she has been consistently on the side of social justice.

Best publication of the year: Private Eye & The Guardian 

If you don't subscribe to Private Eye you should. They are never afraid to expose corruption and 2013 has been no different.

Even though the Guardian have been hogtied by their support for the Liberal Democrats, meaning that other mainstream papers like the Mirror, the Daily Record and the Independent have been stronger in their criticism of the Tory led government, they deserve recognition for having lead the way on the Edward Snowden revelations, which undoubtedly became the biggest story of the year on either side of the Atlantic.

Worst Publication of the year: The Daily Mail

The award of worst publication is richly deserved. Even if the Daily Mail hadn't been relentlessly pushing their anti-immigrant anti-welfare propaganda and their sidebar of smut, the sheer hypocrisy of the declaration that a man who volunteered to defend Britain from the Nazis was "unpatriotic" in a newspaper that openly propagandised for Hitler in the 1930s and now owned by a man who deliberately lives abroad in order to avoid paying tax on the profits was more than enough to earn them recognition as the worst publication of the year.
Best blog: Johnny Void

As the sole judge in these awards I've excluded my own blog from contention.

I've been a fan of Johnny Void's blog for years and his blog was one of the inspirations in the establishment of Another Angry Voice. Johnny had another cracking year in 2013 and I encourage you to check out some of his work.

Resignation of the year: The Pope 

In February 2013 Benedict XVI became the first Pope to quit in over 600 years after God "told him to resign". I'm normally sceptical of people that do things because God told them to, however in this case it was clearly for the best. His involvement in the paedophilia coverups made him an extremely unpopular moral authority figure. His successor, Pope Francis (the first Latin American pope) has made a number of impressive pronouncements, including one in which he described unfettered capitalism as a new form of tyranny and appealed to global leaders to fight against poverty and inequality. The Catholic church has a lot of crimes to atone for, but Pope Francis at least seems to be making baby steps in the right direction.

U-turn of the year: The Illiberal Democrats

In March 2013 dozens of so-called-Liberal Democrat MPs used their parliamentary votes to undermine the justice system by introducing Kafkaesque Secret Courts despite a chorus of protest from the legal profession and countless international human rights organisations. Just a few months later Nick Clegg announced that the Lib-Dems would no longer be supporting the Secret Courts his MPs had already voted into existence, and that they would be campaigning against Secret Courts at the next election, illustrating once again that there's nothing quite as flexible as a Lib-Dem principle.
Best legislation: Legalisation of cannabis in Uruguay

The highlight in terms of UK legislation was the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill which was approved in July 2013, however in my view it was far too late in the day for recognition as the best piece of legislation. The UK were beaten to legislating gay equality by more than a dozen countries, many of which had to overcome the strong influence of the Catholic church (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Spain and Portugal), so it was somewhat disappointing that the UK followed rather than led the way on the gay equality issue, especially given the fact that the UK Quakers have been endorsing the validity of same sex relationships since 1963 (4 years before homosexual acts were decriminalised in England, 17 years before they were decriminalised in Scotland and 50 years before same sex marriage was finally legislated).

Latin America led the way on gay equality and they're now leading the way on another important issue. In December 2013 Uruguay became the first country to fully legalise cannabis. The cannabis market in Uruguay will now be run as a nationalised industry and people will be allowed to grow a limited number of plants for personal consumption. It is absolutely clear that prohibition causes many more significant harms than the drugs themselves, especially when it comes to non-toxic drugs like cannabis, so this dramatic abandonment of "the war on drugs" by Uruguay has to be seen as one of the most significant pieces of legislation of the decade so far.

Worst legislation: Secret courts

The 2013 Justice and Security (Secret Courts) Bill must be one of the worst pieces of legislation ever to make its way through the British parliament, let alone this year. I've already discussed it in the body of the article so I won't dwell on it too much here other than to say that the Lib-Dems that used their parliamentary votes to push through this piece of overtly totalitarian legislation (in the face of fierce resistance from the legal profession and the House of Lords) have lost all rights to refer to themselves as liberals from now on.

Seven of the best

Here are seven of my favourite articles from the Another Angry Voice blog from 2013:

Asset Stripping "Bankrupt Britain"

What is ... Universal Basic Income?

What is ... a scrounger narrative?

Common sense and neoliberal pseudo-economics

George Osborne's "All in This Together" fallacy

Problem Solving with Iain Duncan Smith

The Tory "War on Justice"


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